The 8 Limbs Of Yoga Explained
Dhyana is the 7th and penultimate limb of the eight-fold path. If you have come this far, you are familiar with the physical practices – breath control and control of the senses; and the practice of concentration. With all these under your belt, you are ready to leave the world of yoga wheels and yoga pants – and start Dhyana – meditation.
The word Dhyana, comes from the Sanskrit world Dhyai – meaning ‘to think of’. In the English language, meditate means ‘to think carefully.’ A lot of people think that meditating is emptying the mind and existing in the present moment. However, this is almost the opposite of what meditation is actually about. Meditation aims to go beyond the present moment; it serves as a radical experiment in the state of the ‘self.’ The way to do this is not by emptying the mind, but about noticing what thoughts arise over a period of time. Meditating is to intensely concentrate the mind on itself to know the truth behind it. It takes our tool of self-knowledge (the mind) and makes the object of our curiosity. Through the conscious exploration of our own selves, we learn to separate illusion from reality eventually reaching the final step of the eight-limbed path: samadhi (bliss).
Dhyana For The Modern Yogi
It might seem a bit too much for the regular yoga practitioner. We do yoga to give us space, workout our bodies and make us feel good about ourselves. People rarely walk into their first yoga class, adorned in the latest yoga leggings, with the intention of profound self-study of their own minds. But fear not, we have the option to take from yoga what works best for us.
Dhyana can give us mental and emotional clarity. As yogis, we are encouraged to interrupt the usual habits of the mind and notice them. It includes;
Some questions arise here.
- What is the quality of our thoughts?
- What do we usually think about?
- What memories do we replay the most?
Consciously observing and asking these questions frees up our minds from habitual patterns, giving it space to learn and create new ideas.
The best thing about meditating in this way is that it can be done anywhere, at any time. You can sit or lie down; the eyes can be closed or open with a soft gaze. Don’t get caught up in the physicality. It only matters that you are comfortable. Start with 5-10 minutes of introspection at a time, until you decide you want to extend your meditation time.
So Why Meditate?
The part of a physical yoga practice that makes us feel calm and stress-free is the fact that it is a moving meditation. Sitting in meditation isolates that and increases it. Coming back to yourself and giving your mind a break from the pressures of everyday life for a mere 10 minutes a day is enough to make a difference in your stress and anxiety levels. In the same way that a piece of music is made beautiful by the space between the notes, or the space between the words makes a sentence, the spaces you create for yourself can make the difference between existing and living. Meditation leads us to the final step of the eight-limbed path – Pure Bliss.