Dharana (धारणा)

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Dharana (Samskrit: धारणा) refers to one-pointed concentration[1] and is the 6th step in the path of Ashtanga Yoga expounded by Maharshi Patanjali.

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

Dharana suggests fixing one's attention completely at one place, object or idea at a time. It is the ability to bring the mind into focus and hold the concentration on a single point. In true Dharana all body-consciousness and restless thoughts cease, enabling one to focus on the object without distraction.[1] The Yoga Sutras define Dharana as,

देशबन्धश्चित्तस्य धारणा ।। ३.१ ।।[2] deśabandhaścittasya dhāraṇā ।। 3.1 ।।

Meaning: Dharana is holding the mind on to some particular object.

Swami Vivekananda elaborates on this sutra and states that Dharana (concentration) is when the mind holds on to some object, either in the body, or outside the body, and keeps itself in that state.[3]

Controlled Freedom of the Mind

Dharana is an exercise that enables the mind to experience freedom within the periphery of a specific area; within a specific boundary. The following story helps in better understanding this concept of Dharana.

A farmer owned a calf. The calf wanted to roam around in different directions. It was essential to control the calf from wandering about in different directions. However, tying it up to a particular point was not possible. So, the farmer tied a cord of certain length to its neck and then tied the other end of the cord to a hook in the ground. That way, the calf freely moved in the circle, the radius being the length of the cord, at the same time, remained restricted within the circle. Thus, the farmer had a control on the calf while the calf gained controlled freedom.

The mind, like the calf, wants to roam around everywhere. Dharana is a practice that helps restrict the focus of the mind to a particular point. The point of focus could be

  • the breath
  • a mantra
  • a word
  • any object[1]

Therefore, Dharana or concentration refers to fixing of the mind on both a concrete object or on an abstract idea.[4]

धारणायाः आवश्यकता ॥ Need to Develop Dharana

Dharana, generally referred to as concentration, is direction of attention towards a single object. Everyone has the ability to concentrate. However, during favourable activities there is total concentration. While at other times, thoughts are scattered and the mind jumps from one thing to another. It is for those times that one needs to learn and practice Dharana or concentration. For, it trains the mind to be attentive and attain awareness.[1]

धारणायाः अभ्यासः ॥ Practice of Dharana

Concentration or Dharana produces in us a state in which the natural wandering of our thoughts, the fluctuations of the psyche, are brought under control. In a state of concentration, the psyche attends to one thing so that there is intensification of activity of the mind in one particular direction.[5]

The development of concentration follows the practice of asanas, pranayama ie. breathing practices and Pratyahara (control of the senses). The steps in the practice of Dharana itself involves,

  • Sitting quietly in Padmasana with closed eyes and observing one's breath ie. the process of inhalation and exhalation.
  • Performing Aumkara chanting ie. chanting A-kara, U-kara and M-kara (A-U-M) in a sequence and focusing on the picture of Om.

This will help in focusing. It is also called as Nadanusandhana and gives a soothing effect to the entire body.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Yoga - Level B (Chapter 4), Open Basic Education Programme (Bharatiya Jnana Parampara), Noida: National Institute of Open Schooling.
  2. Yoga Sutras, Pada 3 (Vibhuti Pada)
  3. Swami Vivekananda, Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
  4. Swami Sivananda (2006), Practice of Yoga, Shivanandanagar: The Divine Life Society.
  5. K. Ramakrishna Rao & Anand C. Paranjpe (2016), Psychology in the Indian Tradition, India: Springer.