If you want to go further in your meditation practice, try Samyama. I learned this technique by studying Ashtanga yoga, the form of yoga created by K Pattabhi Jois.
Samyama is the Sanskrit for “bind”. It is the binding of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (union), which leads to absorption. Patanjali states that this develops prajna (understanding) and especially “mula prajna” (listening and contemplation).
We usually do samyama after training in Pratyahara (sense withdrawal). We use Pratyahara to reduce information overload so it is easier to meditate.
Many experts consider samyama meditation to be the single most important part of yoga. Indeed, in Adi yoga and Raja yoga, Samyama meditation technique is practised continually because it contains the three upper limbs of Raja Yoga. So how do you do it?
How To Do Samyama Meditation
I have created this guide based on Alan Little’s “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.”
Before you begin, make sure you have good posture. You should sit with a straight but relaxed spine. Close your eyes. Tuck your chin down just a tiny bit to lengthen your neck. And you can use a mudra if you like. Or place your hands on your lap. You should feel grounded and stable.
1: In the first stage of Samyama we meditate on one object. This is similar to Dharana.
I’m going to use an example of meditating on a candle flame. So set a candle about a metre in front of you. We can also use the breath. Either way, focus your mind on the meditation object as usual.
When we experience thoughts or feelings we just let them float by. Don’t dwell on them or fight them. We want to let them temporarily exist without affecting us.
2: Next, sustain Dharana uninterrupted.
We are working our way towards Samadhi (absorption). To get there, we must sustain our focus on the meditation object. So simply continue to meditate on your object.
3: Next, we achieve oneness with the meditation object. At this point, we lose self-awareness. This is Samadhi.
Eventually, we will reach a point of Samadhi. We will achieve oneness with the object. I find that at this point I lose touch with “me” and almost become the object of meditation. However, we can’t force this oneness. By definition, it must be effortless. We get there through sustained training in Dharana.
4: We now practise Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi together.
That is, we concentrate, achieve oneness, and become absorbed in the meditation object. This is Samyama.
When we achieve Samyama we become the object we are meditating on. We lose our delusional sense of self and the only thing that exists is the meditation object.
5: Once we achieve Samyama we will achieve insight.
Because we are now one with the meditation object, we will receive insight from it. You will find that you experience the true nature of the object you are meditating on. When you experience this, it is perhaps the most profound stage of meditation.
Benefits of Samyama meditation
There really aren’t too many direct benefits of Samyama stated in the Sutras. Indeed, Patanjali simply tells us to try it out and find its usefulness. Although, interestingly, there are mentions of the ability to change your size and even to levitate… I’m not sure about that
Patanjali states that if we master Samyama meditation we will overcome any “cognitive obscuration” (Klesha). The Yoga Sutras also state that the yogin will acquire powers and successes (siddhi) through Samyama meditation.
Sadly, there really isn’t any research into the effects of Samyama. Certainly, we do know that Samyama meditation has most of the same benefits as Dharana and Dhyana because it involves both those techniques.
Therefore, we know that Samyama activates the parasympathetic nervous system and reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Therefore, it is relaxing. But so are most meditations.
It is probable that Samyama is a powerful way of reducing negative thoughts and negative beliefs because we completely lose our sense of self. Most negative thoughts and beliefs are based around our idea of ourselves as an individual. Therefore, it is likely that when we overcome that sense of self, we shake off those negative thoughts and negative beliefs.
I am absolutely certain that it does wonders for the body too. Because at the highest point of Samyama meditation the body is completely and utterly relaxed. More so than in other methods. And to me this suggests that it should help with various maladies.
We can probably agree with Patanjali on the “insight” too. When you achieve Samyama you do indeed see the true reality of the meditation object. And as such, you do gain insight into its true nature.
I consider Samyama to be one of the most powerful meditations and I love practising it. When I achieve Samyama I feel completely absorbed in my meditation object. And this removes my imprisoning sense of self.
Giving Is Caring
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