Appreciating, Understanding and Finding True Bliss
This past week we finished our discussion of the eight limbs of yoga as laid out by The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali; the path that outlines how to achieve yoga or “union with the divine”. Here I focus on the final four limbs – Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi – understanding how we can realistically use these limbs within our own practice as well as everyday life. While the first four limbs set the foundation of yoga, the final four limbs build upon the previous, moving us closer to appreciating, understanding and finding true bliss.
The fifth limb, Pratyahara, is where we attempt to quiet our senses and begin to turn inward of ourselves; removing the influences of the outside world. In Sanskrit, pratyahara means withdrawal from the senses.
How can we use pratyahara within our own practice? Our mind often gets pulled here and there as we listen, taste, smell and so forth. As we come to our mats, pratyahara entails forgetting about the noise of children playing outside, forgetting about the taste of toothpaste in your mouth (or the taste of coffee if you forgot about brushing your teeth – which actually takes us back to the niyamas, one of which is cleanliness, but that we covered in my last post) or forgetting about smells that surround you.
The sixth limb, Dharana, is the binding of the mind to one place, object or idea. In Sanskrit, dharana means concentration. The idea is to focus so intently on something that the rest of the world disappears around you, bringing you deep concentration and eliminating distraction.
How can we use dharana within our own practice? If you have ever heard a yoga teacher remind you to “use your ‘drishti’ in the pose” while finding balance, this is an example of dharana. In Sanskrit, drishti means vision; your line of sight taking supreme focus over the pose, as you send all of your energy to one gazing point.
The seventh limb, Dhyana, results from the concentration that is fostered with dharana. In Sanskrit, dhyana translates to mean meditation. In dharana you are training your mind for meditation, which creates the flow of inner strength. As you attempt to concentrate on one place, object or idea you may fall out of that concentration (dharana) as you instead focus on one of your senses (pratyahara); however, dhyana is achieved as your concentration leads your mind to focus so intently on one thing that it offers a glimpse of who you truly are and your place within this world.
How can we use dhyana off the mat? The perspective and sense of peace we achieve in dhyana can truly be used in all aspects of our lives. As you experience a hectic day at work, wait on line at a store or are on hold on the telephone, come back to the sense of stillness you felt during meditation. Recalling this peace can often cause what was bothering you, frustrating you or making you impatient, to no longer seem as big of a deal as it did before.
The eighth limb, Samadhi, is the ultimate bliss and goal of yoga. In Sanskrit, Samadhi can translate to mean to acquire truth. It is about being present, having, understanding and appreciating complete contentment with yourself and your place within the world around you.
How can we use samadhi off the mat? Given how difficult it can be to attain samadhi, your initial goal can be to foster the conditions for it to occur. What activity can you do with ease? That place where you are completely content – maybe gardening, walking, running, cycling? Go to that place and begin slowly; letting go of your senses, pinpointing concentration, discovering meditation and uncovering bliss.
~The divine in me salutes the divine in you, Namaste~