To meditate we need concentration, and to develop concentration we use Dharana, the sixth limb of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga.
In my online meditation lessons, I’ve seen how this simple practice can help cultivate concentration.
Indeed, the very word “Dharana” is Sanskrit for “Concentration”, which is defined as “holding something in the mind.”
When we practise Dharana meditation we focus on one thing while avoiding distractions.
So, let me show you how to do Dharana, one of the main types of meditation in yoga.
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You can also watch this guided meditation on our Youtube channel.
1: Sit comfortably with good posture
Because you practise yoga, you probably already have good posture. But it is worth checking.
You should be sitting with a straight but relaxed spine. Tuck your chin down a tiny bit to gently lengthen your neck. You will want to close your eyes but… obviously read this guide first.
You can practise Dharana yoga by meditating on your breath, an object, or your own body. If meditating on an object, place the object about a metre in front of you. You should be looking directly ahead at the object.
If you’re meditating on the breath, close your eyes but hold them still.
2: Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
As with most meditation techniques, proper breathing is imperative.
When you breathe from the diaphragm you calm the mind. Diaphragmatic breathing reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and heightens the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps you to relax. It also reduces the effects of cortisol, which helps with stress.
It is important not to control the breath. Yes, the breath will be deep. But it will be deep because you are relaxing your mind. It is a secondary effect. Do not control the breath.
3: Focus on your meditation object
Dharana meditation means to hold unimpeded focus on the meditation object.
Yoga teacher T.K.V. Desikachar says that in Dharana “The mind has reached the ability to be directed when direction toward a chosen object is possible in spite of many other potential objects within the reach of the individual.”
Meditate on your object. Hold your focus there. But don’t worry if you occasionally lose your concentration. In fact, this is normal. No one has perfect focus. Do not judge yourself.
4: Dealing with distracting thoughts and other stimuli
The trick to proper Dharana yoga practice is knowing how to handle thoughts and distractions. My advice is to simply let thoughts come and go as they will. You don’t want to fight them, repress them, or hold on to them. Just let them come and go.
You might find it helpful to take a trick from the Buddhist method Vipassana. Specifically, when you experience thoughts, label them. Tell yourself, “This is just a thought.” The same thing with feelings, “This is just a feeling.” And for external stimuli, you can say, “This is just a sound / visual / whatever the nature of the distraction is.”
Studies show that labelling thoughts and stimuli in this way makes us less reactive to them. In other words, it will help you focus through distractions.
1: Don’t compare yourself to others:
If you’re doing Dharana in a yoga studio you might be tempted to compare yourself to others. Don’t. You are a unique individual. Simply accept yourself and focus.
2: Be aware of your development:
As you practise Dharana meditation you will gradually develop. At first, your concentration might be bad. That’s fine. Accept it. When you practise daily you will increase your focus. Take note of how far you have come.
3: You don’t need to be perfect:
Too many meditators feel bad when their mind wanders. But guess what. Your mind naturally wanders all the time. If it happens while you’re meditating that’s fine. Just gently return your focus.
If you struggle to focus it is probably because there is too much noise in your mind. To overcome this, practise Pratyahara techniques.
4: Practice on different objects:
We normally meditate on the breath. However, you can meditate on anything you like. Try meditating on your body when doing asanas. And try meditating on crystals and other objects too.
Benefits of Dharana
You’ll be happy to hear that there are lots of benefits of Dharana yoga:
- Stress relief
- Focus and concentration
- Productivity (because of increased focus)
- Inner peace
- Let’s you experience yoga more mindfully
Relaxation & Stress
Probably the number one benefit of all meditation techniques is relaxation. You get home from a hard day’s work and want to chill. Sit and watch your breath. Relaxation comes naturally. Simple.
Deep meditative breathing reduces cortisol, reduces amygdala activity and sympathetic nervous system activity, and promotes parasympathetic nervous system activity . Basically, it helps you relax and reduces stress.
Focus and concentration
When we practise Dharana yoga we focus on one thing. So naturally, this improves your concentration. And indeed, studies back this up. One study looked at the effect of Dhyana and Dharana meditation. Researchers state that the practice increases focus and attention. 
Because you’re interested in Dharana I am going to assume you also practise yoga. And maybe you want to enjoy yoga more. If so, Dharana meditation will help.
Have you ever gone to yoga class and been distracted by thoughts? Did those thoughts prevent you from enjoying your practice? If so, Dharana yoga is perfect. Why? Because it quietens your mind. Plus, it reduces ruminating thoughts and helps you focus through distractions. The result is that you will enjoy your yoga practice more.
Dharana meditation is one of the most important aspects of yoga. When we practise Dharana yoga we improve our concentration and quieten the mind. This helps us to be productive and calm. Plus, it enables us to enjoy yoga practice more.
If you would like to learn Dharana meditation and other yogic meditations, book an online meditation lesson with me today.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison