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Welcoming Spring?! Exploring The Last 3 Limbs of Yoga: Dhyana, Dharana, and Samadhi, Meditating and Enjoying Indian Cuisine

This week has been miserable, rainy, cold and we had a little earthquake! Those of us who live in New England should know better than to think that spring comes in March or April, we usually jump from winter to summer sometime in June! Today I went for a short walk in the sun and, at about 15 minutes in, found myself in pouring rain and hail and freezing.


Speaking of walking, at this point in my life it is my primary form of consistent aerobic activity having given up on running probably 30 years ago! I hike, snowshoe, walk probably as fast as I ever ran (jogged). I walk fast, I ran slowly. I love my pedestrian adventures with my friends, catching up on our lives and solving the world’s problems. I have also tried to adopt a consistent solo walking meditation practice. As in savasana or other seated meditations, I try to keep my mind clear of plans and lists. I observe nature with all my senses, looking at the changing colors of the plants and trees, deeply inhaling the outdoor scents, hearing the birds and other sounds of the outdoors. I will admit that this can be a challenge for me, I start to think about my day, my to do list, and must continually bring my mind back to the present. Have I mentioned that savasana is my most challenging yoga pose? I have found that I often notice many things I would normally miss; I am excited by the deer, foxes, the beauty of the sun on the water, a sunrise, a sunset. While I am the consummate multitasker, I now relish these walks and find them nurturing and restorative.



The Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Limb!


While it seemed to take forever to get through the first two limbs, the Yamas and the Niyamas, it may seem contradictory that I bring the last three limbs together in one discussion.  They are as follows:


·         Dharna – Concentration, taken from Sanskrit “Dhr” which means to hold, meaning holding the concentration or focus of attention in one direction.  This is when the mind focuses and concentrates on one point in beginning a meditation.

·         Dhyana – Meditation or the uninterrupted flow of the mind toward a chosen object.  Dharna comes before Dhyana as the mind must focus first before the connection is made.  Dharana is the contact and dhyana is the connection.   

·         Samadhi – To become one or absolute union.  Samadhi means to “bring everything together, to merge”.  Desikachar says that in samadhi “our personal identity…. completely disappears.”  He goes on further to explain that nothing “separates us from the object of our choice; instead, we blend and become one with it.”


While I have read several sources on the limbs, I consistently return to Desikachar and his book, Heart of Yoga.  For me his explanation is the most straightforward.  My YTT class knew that I was almost giddy over this diagram which made some very obscure concepts become easier for me to understand. 


Diagram 1 shows the focus of the mind (circle) on the object of meditation or focus, this is dharana.  This could be the breath, a sound, the image of the moon, etc.  The mind links with the object of the attention and maintains the link (diagram 2), achieving dhyana.  As the mind blends and becomes one with the object of meditation (diagram 3), samadhi is reached.


For additional information on these three limbs and how they work together, see the attached article, I liked it very much.




Our Practice – Meditation: Seated or Walking  


Instead of a long walk or long meditation, tell yourself 5 or 10 minutes is fine, get outside and move, relax, breathe. This too is yoga!


This week we will try a short, seated meditation in class.  When we do this (or you try on your own), find the most comfortable seated pose you can find.  Use props.  This position is our foundation to meditation, and we want to be as comfortable as possible.  We will focus our attention on something whether it is a physical object, a mental mind photo, a sound, a mantra or perhaps a candle flame.   Eyes closed usually works well.  Breath is gentle and steady.  We will find stillness in our mind and will keep coming back to it.  Our mind may jump around, just continue to coax it back, gently and without judgment, to stillness and focus.  If thoughts arise, gently push them away and return to your object of attention.  5-10 minutes maximum is a great start. 


“Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in.  And this is the point of spiritual practice: to make us teachable; to open our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.” – Rolf Gates


Nurturing With Food – Indian Recipes


This week I took a few hours off from my day job as a banker to cook dinner for my brother and mom. Because Peter, my husband, does much of the cooking in our home, my brother was quick to point out, “Mom, see, Julia Anne still cooks”.  We had two of my favorites, red lentil dal and chickpea and spinach stew (a variation on chana masala). It must have been pretty good as my brother said it was “as good as the Indian restaurant”.  😂🤣😅





See you on the mat!


Julia Anne




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