A key component to a good foundation on the Yogic path are the eight limbs of ashtanga yoga, introduced in Sutra II. 28 of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These practices support the development of discernment, purification and the removal of obstacles so a yogi can see clearly and progress toward the state of samadhi -- being in oneness with all of creation. Each limb builds on the other; however, they are all equal to the other in matter of importance on the path toward enlightenment. This post covers the seventh limb, dhyana.
The first six limbs of yoga have a lot to do with control. Yama and niyama are ethical guidelines to control behavior in society while asana, pranayama, pratyahara and dhyana involve controlling the body, breath, senses and mind respectively. From the focus and concentration one builds developing control, blooms the ability for a spontaneous experience of merging with an object of concentration -- an event that can’t be forced but rather happens spontaneously and out of the bounds of conscious control.
This merging into oneness is not to be confused with the concentration practice of dharana. The difference is that in the sixth limb there is clear subject and object separation. In dhyana, however, the subject and object distinction disappears and the two become one. All boundaries, borders and separation between ourselves and creation begin to disappear.
The Sanskrit root of the word dhyana is dhi, which often translates to mean imaginative wisdom, understanding and intellect. It is widely understood that the seventh limb of ashtanga yoga relates to a state of profound meditation and reflection.
As dhyana is a state of being that a practitioner moves into spontaneously, it cannot be forced or “practiced.” In the spirit of inspiring your practice, here is a quote from The Chopra Center that attempts to describe the state of merging that is dhyana:
In dhyana, love flows through you and creates a higher vibrational frequency within you. Just as your Creator, named Purusha in Sanskrit, this divine love has the capacity to heal, create miracles, and has compassion and empathy for all. The ego falls away in dhyana and you transcend the confines of the mind.
Reflection on Dhyana
Dhyana is a state of being that we are capable of experiencing outside of the structure of a yoga practice. You are invited to reflect on a time in your daily life where you experienced a higher vibrational frequency that allowed you to "merge" perhaps with nature, another person, an artistic pursuit or undertaking a daily task. Write down whatever you can recall about that experience.
about chattra blogger Jillian Bobowicz
Jillian is a yogini based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She leads weekly public yoga classes for adults and specializes in yoga for kids and families. Her studies have led her to complete trainings at YogaWorks, Karma Kids and Yoga Playgrounds. Jillian feels blessed to practice and teach yoga and is particularly passionate about empowering her students with tools to navigate the modern world with ease.