Dharana and Dhyana sound like fashionably named sisters (I’m sure someone’s done that!) but in fact they are the two of the final three rungs of yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali relates that Dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation) lead to samadhi.
Dharana: Concentration is the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place.
Dhyana: Meditation is sustained concentration, whereby the attention continues to hold or repeat the same object or place.
Samadhi: Samadhi is the deep absorption, wherein only the essence of that object, place, or point shines forth in the mind, as if the mind were devoid even of its own form.
In daily life our mind runs here and there, even in the yoga studio. During practice our minds can flit from moment to moment. When we try to fix our mind to one thing, within a fraction of a second it flies somewhere else. To cultivate the Dharana and Dhyana requires you to focus. From the moment you step on your mat be mindful: concentrate and meditate. Make this your continuous objective through physical practice of performing each posture (asana) and control of the breathing (Pranayama).
As you develop your ability you can progress through the stages of attention and achieve a true, deep peace within your life and practice. Remember:
Attention leads to concentration (dharana).
Concentration leads to meditation (dhyana).
Meditation leads to absorption (samadhi).
Share your thoughts on concentration and meditation in the comments.