The Yoga Tutor

The Stages of Concentration

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 505 ]

Patanjali describes the first stage of concentration in The Yoga Sutras, Vibhuti Pada, sutra 1:

"DESA-BANDHA CITTASYA DHARANA"
Translation - Concentration is the confining of the mind within a limited mental area.

At this first stage of dharana, the mind is confined to the limited sphere, which is simply defined as the "object of concentration." You may wonder how it is that the mind can maintain movement when it is concentrating solely upon one thing.

This is easy to understand when we consider that everything has innumerable aspects or dimensions upon which the mind can occupy itself -- one by one. This is true for objects in the physical realm, as well as concepts within the mental field, which may involve a process of reasoning or an analysis of several steps required to form a logical understanding of it.

Thus there can also be 'movement' in the psychological sphere alone without leaving the object of concentration.

When the mind gets out of touch with the object of concentration, and another, unrelated object (or thought) enters it, then dharana is broken. So our main task in dharana is to immediately bring the mind back to our intended object of concentration each time it becomes distracted -- gradually, over time, strengthening its ability to remain 'contained within a field'.

It is through diligent and regular practice alone that the sadhak is able to progressively reduce the frequency of these interruptions and eventually eliminate them altogether.

"[dharana] is a method by which a person concentrates more and more upon less and less. The aim is to empty the mind while paradoxically remaining alert."
~ John H Clark, A Map of Mental States

[Continued...]


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NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.


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