The third chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras instructs us about the progression of our practice - Vibhuti Pada.

Yoga-Sutra

Vibhuti-Pada

Sentence 1

desha-bandhah chittasya dharana ||1||

देशबन्धः चित्तस्य धारणा ॥१॥

deśa-bandhaḥ cittasya dhāraṇā ॥1॥

Harmony with your thoughts and the ability to concentrate are attained by aligning the mutable aspects of humankind with a specific subject. ||1||


deśa = place; location; topic; subject
bandha = binding to; holding; fixing; uniting
cittasya = (gen.) all that is mutable/transient in humankind; consciousness
dhāraṇā = concentration; focusing; directing attention

Dharana: harmony with the mind

On the eight step path from asana to pranayama, pratyahara and dharana, you successively focus on four different aspects of human existence: asana entails working with the physical body and bringing it into harmony; pranayama creates harmony with the energetic body; pratyahara is associated with the emotional body; and dharana brings these three evolutions to their culminating point – namely working with the mental body and attaining harmony with our thoughts, which is the most difficult task on the eight step path. Although it is relatively easy to control the physical body and perform all manner of exercises, bringing your thoughts under control and proactively guiding them comprise advanced yoga. You can experience this for yourself by doing the following exercise:

While sitting in a comfortable position for a few minutes with your eyes closed, try not to think of a blue elephant with bells around its neck. You will probably find, as do most people, that this is an impossible task, i.e. you will inevitably have thoughts such as “What’s the point of this exercise?” or “Great, I’ve done it, I haven’t thought about an elephant.”

Dharana at the threshold to the ethereal levels

Dharna will also take your yoga practice into a new dimension. In addition to culminating in asana (harmony with the physical body), pranayama (harmony with the energetic body), pratyahara (harmony with the emotions) and dharana (harmony with thoughts), dharana forms the basis for the three ethereal stages of yoga: dharana (concentration), dhyana (deep contemplation) and samadhi (enlightenment).

Dharana: the end point of practice

The four steps comprising asana, pranayama, pratyahara and dharana entail very specific techniques that you can learn and practice. Intensive use of these tools ultimately results in harmony with the relevant aspect, dharana being the final step on this path of yoga practice. The succeeding steps cannot be practiced and are attained automatically if the right foundation is laid. This transition is discussed again in chapter four (ys 4.2), where the practicing yogi is likened to a farmer who digs a furrow in a rice field embankment so that water can flow through and irrigate the field. Dharana can be compared to the final digging action that allows the water to flow into the rice field.

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