Dharana (con’t) – Improve Concentration
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Many yoga practices exist to improve concentration and train the mind … from the repetition of mantras in japa, ajapa and ajapa-japa form, to visualizations, concentrations upon certain ‘inner sounds’ (laya), and the use of external concentration devices such as a yantra (geometric design).
Focusing intently upon certain aspects of the body during asana practice can also be a form of dharana.
The same is true for pranayama, where certain points of concentration are used while controlling the breath, or in some cases, the breath itself is the point of concentration.
The jnana yoga kriyas are also powerful practices for the development of dharana, because their very nature is to contain the mind within a strict visualization.
Some of the jnana yoga kriyas to improve concentration taught through the yoga training programs at International Yogalayam include:
- Nishpanda Jnana Kriya
- Prana Jnana Kriya
- Nadi Jnana Kriya
- Jnana Surya Kriya
- Kshitijan Kriya
- Om Japa Kriya
- Antara Drishthi Kriya
All of these yoga practices are geared toward the same thing — ‘one-pointedness’ of mind.
Basic Yoga Concentration Exercises
Here are four common yoga concentration techniques for the development of dharana that you can experiment with:
Trataka (which means steady gaze) is a technique whereby the eyes are fixed upon a certain external point such as the horizon of the sea, or the flame of a candle.
- Take a comfortable seated position outdoors, where objects at various distances between you and the horizon can be viewed.
- Pick at least 4 objects (roughly spaced equal distance), the first being near the feet and the furthest at the horizon.
- Beginning at the nearest object, concentrate upon it for 60 seconds.
- Move you attention every 60-seconds to each successively further object until the final one at the horizon has been reached.
- After focusing upon the last point for 60 seconds, reverse object by object (again concentrating 60 seconds on each) back to the first point.
- Place a candle upon a small table, whereby the flame is at eye-level.
- Sit a distance of between 6 to 10 feet away and place your concentration upon the flame.
- Do not to blink and try to hold you concentration for between 30 and 60 seconds.
- Close you eyes for 30 to 60 seconds and try to reproduce the image of the flame in your ‘mind’s eye’.
- Repeat this process 3 to 6 times in one sitting.
- Take a comfortable sitting position and gaze open-eyed at the tip of the nose.
- Hold this concentration until you feel tension in the eyes, then
- Close your eyelids, but imagine that you are still gazing at the tip of the nose.
- Hold this visualization for 15-20 seconds and then re-open the eyes.
- Repeat this process several times.
- Again, take a comfortable sitting position and turn the gaze to the base of the nose, creating a ‘cross-eyed’ position.
- Raise the eyes slightly, so that this cross-eyed gaze now falls directly between the eyebrows, then…
- Close your eyelids and hold this point of concentration ‘inwardly’.
- Periodically open your eyes to see if this point is being maintained, then close them once again.
- Hold this concentration for several minutes