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Shannon Brady

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Dharana on the mat and beyond

“Focus, breathe, firm up the back thigh, extend through the raised heel and point the toes downward. Keep your eyes fixed on a point about a foot in front of the mat on the floor and find stillness and ease here…”

Simple instructions to a group of fabulous students willingly adhering to my cues into Virabhadrasana III (aka Warrior 3).

Simple? Not even!! Just try hanging out in Warrior 3 without teetering, cursing or gripping the toes on the standing leg so hard they turn white. Not easy.

I know exactly how they feel. With the iphone, the ipad, i gotta do this, i shoulda done that, i have to call her, i forgot to text him, i better email the boss before noon, it’s no wonder today’s yogis and yoginis can barely stand on one leg without their heads exploding.

But it’s worth the effort. It really is. Spending quality time on the mat breathing, focusing, and finding stillness is a beautiful recipe for reversing the horrid effects of today’s constant distractions and – I HATE this word – multi-tasking.

Patanjali, yoga philosopher/writer and compiler of the Yoga Sutra touches on this very subject in the 6th limb of the 8-limbed path with dharana, or, single-pointed concentration.  *Patanjali taught that performing dharana literally meant binding the consciousness to a single point – whether it be the navel, the space between the eyebrows, a flower, or even a sound or phrase so long as it is a single point. My students were performing dharana by gazing at a fixed point on the floor in front of their mats.

Again, sounds simple but it is so very hard. It takes discipline to focus on one thing for any extended period of time. But done consistently, over time, the effects will prove worthy beyond the mat. A few examples come to mind:

1. Your retired father who is pining for a long, heartwarming conversation sharing wonderful memories of the time you spilled spaghetti over your head finally receives your call, has your full attention, and feels your smile through the phone. You have made his day.

2. You NAIL that power point presentation, answering every question fired your way, breathing deep and concentrating on all the relevant points supporting your pitch.

3. You tune out the antsy customer behind you audibly sighing in the Starbucks line, and thank the harried barrista for getting your order just right (tall skinny cinnamin dolce latte no whip, s’il vous plait) every single morning, never realizing this is the only word of thanks she’s received since arriving to work at 5 am.

So try it. Breath. Focus. Concentrate. What task can you remove right now from your multi-list?

*source: Yoga Journal book by Linda Sparrowe, 2008


2 comments on “Dharana on the mat and beyond

  1. greg says:

    totally agree- thanks for reminding me to stay calm and focus.

  2. danielle says:

    I agree vira 3 can be a challenge! I will make a point to thank someone that usually doesn’t receive kindness.. 🙂

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