Understanding Dhyana, The 7th Limb of Yoga l with a guided meditation
I came to yoga for the physical benefits. As someone who has always been movement-oriented, I thought the asanas seemed like a nice way to stretch. I liked that I could count on some classes to break a sweat. What I didn’t anticipate was the awareness. The more time I spent on my mat, the more I began to feel a new sense of presence in my body. As I continued attending classes, I found myself wanting to stay in savasana longer. As I lied there, I felt aware and in my body in a way I never had before. For those fleeting moments, I felt like my brain was working differently; softer somehow. I didn’t understand it at the time, but at the end of my practice I was experiencing moments of dhyana.
According to one of the most widely known yogic texts, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is an eight-fold path to follow towards liberation, known as the “Eight Limbs of Yoga.” Each stage builds off the previous. Each limb offers techniques that enable the practitioner to move forward and deepen their practice with each new stage. For example, the 6th limb (dharana) offers techniques to practice meditation and leads into the 7th limb (dhyana).
What is dhyana?
Dhyana is a Sanskrit word, and can be best translated as “contemplation” or “meditation”. It is derived from two root words — “dhi” meaning “mind” and “yana” meaning “moving.” Alternate definitions suggest that the term was derived from the Sanskrit word “dhyai” which means “to think of.”
This term is sometimes used interchangeably with “meditation,” however there are subtle but important differences between these terms.
Meditation is the practice of calming or quieting the mind. There are a wide variety of techniques and schools of meditation, each with their own methods used to help achieve stillness. Some practices include a visual focal point or an audible mantra, while others leverage body scanning or breath techniques; others utilize complete silence. Dhyana is the resulting state of being in meditative absorption. Therefore, it can be said that meditation is the path that leads to dhyana.
Another related term with a notable difference is the 6th limb of yoga: dharana. Dharana is the concentration of mind. It can be understood…