May 24, 2011

Keep Your Eye on the Ball. ~ Andrew Gurvey

A Brief Foray into Dharana

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. – Albert Einstein

The heart of discipline, balance and strength reside in focus. Perception is the enemy of such because it can cause one to misuse concentration on that which is not important. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the sixth limb of yoga is Dharana. This limb is associated with concentration and focus. The idea of Dharana is to put a perceptual boundary on the mind, removing ancillary minutiae, in order to see something for what it is more clearly.

Yoga is a journey, not an end game.

In practicing asana, to enjoy sustenance, one has to find the grace and ease within each pose, no matter its physical level of difficulty. The limb of Dharana is a powerful tool to assist in this endeavor because it cultivates discipline.

One of the key disciplinary elements to finding Dharana is a continual concentration of focus to find center within the asanas themselves. This journey towards center involves allowing use of only the muscles that are needed for that movement or pose, while releasing and relaxing the ones that aren’t. This level of focus is what allows release in areas that are holding tension both in the body and mind.

Physically, it is a powerful way to find balance, ease, stillness and strength.

As with all of the other Limbs of yoga, Dharana is not without irony. One of the primary techniques utilized to assist in the process of achieving focus is to work on undoing the patterns wherein the mind becomes attached to thoughts and thought patterns. The majority of issues upon which we choose to “focus” our attention on a day-to-day basis are hallucinogenic constructions of the mind.

We waste powerful energy concentrating on items that should not even exist on our radar, much less merit our attention. This misuse of focus is a major source of obsessions and compulsive behaviors. A primary example of this is the singular idea where we convince ourselves that we are incapable of achieving higher levels of greatness, that somehow our limits dictate that we can’t become any better. It’s the idea of “I can’t”. This idea is a hallucinogenic perception that dismisses the idea of truly attempting something challenging, embracing it, and finding a way to make it happen.

The ability to truly hone one’s concentration also involves the ability to let go of everything else.

It can often be difficult to “let things go”, as it were. However, the act of making the conscious effort is a step in the right direction. Having said that, it’s important to note that the majority of us have a propensity towards carrying tremendous amounts of stress. At times, we are prone to being beleaguered by the sheer number of interpretations of stress that we manifest from our circumstances. The idea of letting go is illusive, at best.

Photo: Ernst Vikne

The key here is not so much to try to expunge all of these thoughts and interpretations at once, or even at all, but instead to concentrate on releasing the sense of attachment to these things. This requires powerful meditative discipline in order to tighten the focal boundary. As focus is narrowed, the random thoughts will still run their course, but will cease to be interruptions. It becomes easier to bring one’s awareness to more powerful items, such as breath and the present moment.

The possibilities are limitless if one is allowed to focus on the moment while flowing with the movement of the Universe.


Andrew Gurvey is an Engineer for the Fire Protection Division of Underwriters Laboratories by day, and a yoga teacher by night. Andrew has been a student of yoga for 6 years, and a teacher for 1. Andrews arrival to the yoga mat was a long and winding road that has since turned into a powerful, focused journey. You can read his full bio via his website, BalanceFire.com, or connect with him via Facebook.

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