Monday, February 23, 2009

February Monthly Theme:
Pratyahara and Dharana

The February theme of the month moves us to the first two internal limbs of Patanjali's Eight Fold Path: Pratyahara (sense withdrawal) and Dharana (concentration on a single point).

Pratyahara, the fifth limb, is the bridge between the four external limbs and movement toward the internal limbs of Patanjali's Yoga. In Prayahara (sense withdrawal) we draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. Often the mind can still wander in asana and pranayama. In pratyahara we become self observant. Here we observe our cravings, and habits that interfere with our inner growth. When we detach from our senses, we direct our attention internally. Consequently, we have developed our ability to concentrate through asana (posture), pranayama (breath control), and Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) and now we can deal with distractions of the mind itself.

In Dharana (concentration on a single point), we focus on a single point to prepare for meditation. Dharana is the initial step of deep concentrative meditation, where the object being focused upon is held in the mind without consciousness wavering from it. Here the object of meditation, the meditator, and the act of meditation itself remain separate. That is, the meditator or the meditator's meta-awareness is conscious of meditating, on an object, and of his or her own self, which is concentrating on the object. One way that the Hatha Yoga Pradipika suggests that we develop this ekagrata (single pointed concentration and focus of mind) is through the practice of Trataka, or candle gazing.

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