Dhyana, the seventh of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga, is the Sanskrit word for meditation or an unbroken concentration of the mind towards a point of focus. In yoga, however, Dhyana has the greater objective of leading one to enlightenment, by allowing one to enter a state where the boundaries between the self and the object of focus dissolve and become one. One may experience the state of Samadhi (union with the Divine) after the boundaries of the self dissolve in Dhayana.
After practicing yoga for a few years, I’ve come to realise that it is more difficult for me to practice the Dhayana aspect of yoga than the Asanas (poses). For the first year of my practice, I found it very difficult to lie still in Savasana (corpse pose) for just 3 minutes at the end of the class. I would always feel anxious to get out of the pose to go get dinner or to scratch an itch, and my mind would be filled with thoughts of what happened during the day or how badly I did a certain pose in class.
After a doctor friend of mine started educating me about the proven benefits of meditation (see for example: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm#hed3), I began to make a conscious effort to go for meditation classes whenever I had the chance, to try and learn how to control my mind rather than letting my mind control me. ‘Life’ unfortunately always gets in the way, and meditation classes happen only once every few months for me. I slowly realised that instead of trying to go for two separate classes (yoga and meditation), I could try and incorporate meditation at the end of each yoga practice in savasan and I eventually found myself being able to lie still for up to 10 minutes each time, without falling asleep!
So if you’re curious like me about finding out whether it is possible to experience heaven on earth in our minds, in this lifetime, but find it difficult to find the time or discipline to practice your dhyana, start practising in savasana first by focussing on the breath. Thoughts will come and go, but just bring your attention back to the breath and maybe one day we might experience Yoga or Union, in the highest form.
Rachel L. – Jan 2017 YTT 200 hour