Friday, October 5, 2012

Discouragement, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi

This post was supposed to happen yesterday, but I wanted to reread Iyengar's description of the last three limbs again. I didn't feel like they quite settled in my brain or I wasn't paying much attention when I was reading them. Nevertheless, I reread all three this morning and there is still some muddled confusion. So I'll give my viewpoints a go and if you feel like chiming in to help me figure these out I would appreciate the help.

Dharana: Oh me, oh my... this one is basically the yogi's ability to concentrate on a single object. In a sense, to me it seems as if dharana and meditation are almost the same things. Yet Iyengar talks about five mental states: ksipta (mental forces are scattered and the mind hankers after objects; rago-guna being dominant), viksipta (agitated or distracted mind, the capacity to enjoy the fruits of one's efforts, but the desires are not marshaled and controlled), mudha ( mind is foolish, dull and stupid; confounded and at a loss to know what it wants; tamo-guna dominant), ekagrata (closely attentive mind and the mental faculties are concentrated on a single object with sattva-guna present; easily turns to being supremely egotistical which is not good), and lastly niruddha (where the mind, intellect, and ego are all restrained and everything is offered to the Lord for His use in His service).

Hmm.. Yep. So we are attempting to attain the state of niruddha, but I'm not quite sure how it's done. Iyengar also goes over AUM, which has multiple meanings that he discusses. I have always heard the description of it representing the one God. Since I'm not a believer of the trimurti, I transformed this into the trinity (same thing I know but different name and different aspects of God). While the Trimurti contains Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, I worship the Trinity (God the father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit). Their combination creates Him, the one true God. That which is all powerful and ever present in our daily lives. When all ego and thoughts of "I" and "mine" subside, the student can then concentrate on Him and to do his will— which is the ultimate goal.

Dhyana: I've really only heard or read about this limb in reference to staring at a lit candle. The mind is suspended as the student concentrates on the flame and releases all outside disturbances or interruptions.   Through my readings of dhyana by Iyengar, there was much more to it. An attempt to achieve a state of supreme bliss as the student has gained a state of no other thoughts but the contemplation on the Universal Spirit. Signs of progress on the path of yoga are "health, a sense of physical lightness, steadiness, clearness of countenance and a beautiful voice, sweetness of odor of the body and freedom from craving." The student must dedicate all his actions to the Lord, taking refuge in him.

Still, not quite sure I understand this one so much.

Samadhi: The ultimate goal of yoga. The last limb, that once attained frees one from all. The student, in a state of samadhi, is fully conscious and alert. There isn't much really explaining samadhi. It must be experienced, not written or read about. Again, here goes my confusion/ misunderstanding. I mean I understand the concept, I guess just not exactly how to attain it. Iyengar also wrote down the Song of the Soul, which also didn't quite make sense. If attaining samadhi is supposed to be the ultimate goal, then why does the song that is written not sound more tantalizing or interesting. Maybe I'm clinging to worldly things but I'm rather fond of family and friends. The second to last stanza goes like this:

I have no misgiving of death, no chasms of race divide me,
No parent ever called me child, no bond of birth ever tied me:
I am neither disciple nor master, I have no kin, no friend–
Consciousness and joy am I, and merging in Bliss is my end.

That just doesn't put butterflies in my stomach for some reason. Maybe I don't understand it completely.   I'll keep searching though.

In regards to my discouragement . . . well that's a different matter. I know that my body is limited right now in what it can do physically, but it still makes me upset some. My mind wants to go further than simply five surya namaskara's but my body (or uterus rather) makes it impossible to go further. The discomfort at times is great and I end up in Child's Pose on the floor as I let the pain/discomfort subside. I listen to my body and try not to force anything. I also try not to be discouraged by my lack of a physical practice but it creeps in my mind and it's usually while I'm laying in savasana.

Savasana has been another battle for me. I want to lay on my back so bad and just melt into the ground, but I can't lay on my back for longer than three minutes because the weight of the baby will press on major blood vessels and cut of blood to him and me. So, I've been laying on my side..... only I can't get comfortable enough in that position to "relax" like the pose is supposed to do. I've tried experimenting by laying on my back first and then flipping to my side but once I am on my side I get antsy and want to sit up. I can't clear my head and just feel.

Anyone have any ideas about enjoying savasana on my side more? Maybe for increasing patience as well? haha


  1. Hey Brianna - sorry you are feeling discouraged and uncomfortable these days! Have you ever tried restorative yoga? These are styles that use props to help us get comfortable in poses, and emphasise long holds and deep, supported stretches instead of dynamic movement. It sounds like your body may be calling for a different approach to your practice. Primary has such an emphasis on forward folds, I can certainly imagine that it's not comfortable with a big beautiful boy growing in your belly! Remember that asana is only 1/8th of the practice and try to let go of the expectations you place on yourself to do an ashtanga practice!

    For savasana, you can use pillows to help you get comfortable lying on your side (google "restorative yoga side lying pose) OR to prop you up so that you can lie back but with your torso on an angle so there's no risk of pressing on the veina cava (usually done with feet in bound angle pose - supta baddha konasana).

    Have a look on YouTube! There are lots of instructional videos on modifying poses for pregnancy. (But remember to always listen to your body first!) :)

    1. I have considered other restorative types of yoga but I guess since it requires watching videos (or at least following along to what is being instructed) has been a little off-putting. Mostly, I think this is because I KNOW what to do for Ashtanga and it makes it that much easier to get up and go with the routine.
      However, I think I'm getting to the point now where restorative yoga sounds quite lovely and I will probably give it a go. Can't hurt to try. For Savasana, I hadn't even considered using a pillow to prop up on.. Not sure why! Heck, I try to prop up my head, can't believe I didn't try propping my back. Will be trying that this morning.
      Asana=1/8 of practice.... such a hard concept to keep in mind but I quit beating myself up after about 20 minutes. I go back to the mentality of "at least I got onto my mat this morning instead of sluffing it off in bed" so my discouragement only lasts for a bit. I can say that I will be glad to be back to a normal routine in the next few months :).

      Thanks for your tips. I'll make a post in the next few days and let you know how the restorative postures are coming along for me.

    2. Hey Brianna,

      In my mind, there is a reason that in yoga philosophy the yamas and the niyamas come before asana! They need to be applied first and foremost! Asana is meant to be helpful, not harmful to our bodies and our minds. And don't forget that nobody ever said that asana has to be a certain type of asana. I know it can be hard to let go of a discipline we have been following, but I think that's what the deeper practice of yoga is all about: self-awareness. Understanding what is working for us, and letting go of those things that are not working for us in this moment in time.

      Above all cultivate compassion towards yourself!