We will continue with the sixth, seventh, and last limbs in this issue. These are Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi and are collectively called Sanyam, meaning 'control'. They are practised as one as they progress to the next depth of concentration.
The sixth limb, Dharana, is the practice of maintaining focus and concentration. It is the entry into meditation. Dharana requires focused concentration on a single object, internal or external. Concentration on external objects may be any object found externally, such as a candle, flower, a spiritual figure, etc, whereas internal objects may be breath, one particular thought, mantra, chakra, etc. Most of us are bombarded with thoughts and rarely focus on one point. Dharana may sound simple, but it requires practice to achieve and hold for a prolonged period of time.
To practice Dharana, sit comfortably in a calm and peaceful place. If practising external Dharana, keep your eyes open and focus on the chosen object. If you are practising internal Dharana, close your eyes and bring your focus to the mantra, chakra, etc. Without unwavering concentration, your awareness must be focused. While you practice, it is normal for thoughts to disrupt your concentration. The challenge for you is not to be disturbed by these thoughts and to maintain focus. You may initially only maintain your focus for 10 seconds or even less. But with practice, you will be able to hold your focus for longer
The seventh limb, Dhyana, extends from Dharana when total concentration is achieved. This state is the meditative state, and in the true depth of Dhyana, the practitioner cannot see it as an action of meditation practice anymore as they cannot separate themselves from it and are fully immersed.
Samadhi is the eighth limb of yoga, the pinnacle of the yoga practice. Its meaning can translate to a blissful state, liberation or enlightenment. It is considered to be a state where the individual consciousness and the universal consciousness unite, and it is in a complete absorptive meditative state where the practitioner and the meditative object merge into one. Until one can reach the state of Samadhi, the body, mind, and spirit must be conditioned through the eight limbs of yoga, also known as the 8-fold path.
The state of Samadhi and how it is precisely achieved and experienced is all said to differ from person to person. We cannot say for sure if we will achieve Samadhi in this lifetime, but the seven limbs leading up to Samadhi will surely bring you to a state where you will feel more in peace and in alignment with your body, mind and soul. The continual practice of these eight limbs is the yogic life, without expectations and without attachment, with physical and mental conditioning, understanding the oneness of the internal and external cosmos.