Dharana—Yoga for the Eyes

Shannon Funk, RYT

tye-dye visualHave you ever wondered if you really saw what was going on? Or did you see what someone else saw; did you see something ‘eye to eye’? Or even the always interesting’ “Do you see what I am saying”? How do we see what someone is saying? Seeing is about vision, but it is also about perception and interpretation…can you envision in your mind what someone is saying? Usually yes, but maybe not a exact copy of what they are trying to explain.  Furthermore, standing side by side looking at a great master’s piece of art, do you actually see what they see? Visually you are seeing the same object, but what your brain does with it and how it is meaningful to you is very individual, there is so much tied up in the concept of what we see on a day to day basis. The ancient yogis understood that we, the seer, connect and identify with whatever is in our mind, they called these ‘vrtti’…often referred to as the fluctuations or the modifications of the mind. The modifications, or the vritti, can often be overwhelming and detrimental…and what we see in our minds eye is chaos, disorder and usually not always true. Yoga is ultimately about knowing yourself…no one else, it’s about knowing the truth about YOU. 

Training our mind’s eye to see what is true takes practice and it begins with actually using our vision as a tool. There are 8 limbs in yoga; Yama and Niyama, which are a general code of ethics and your personal observances, Asana and Pranayama, which are body postures/sitting and the stretching and control of your breath, and the next three are all stages of meditation; Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana, and finally the last limb is Samadhi, or bliss. To develop your inner and outer vision, so you can start to really see what is going on you can practice the 6th limb of yoga, or Dharana, which translates to concentration or the ability to focus on one thing, whether it be internal or external. Going back to the idea that we identify with what is in our mind, pick something beautiful, like a flower. Begin your warm up, yes, your eyes need warm up’s too! close your eyes and exhale all your air, on an inhale open your eyes and just gaze at a blank wall without blinking for ten seconds, continuing to breathe just close your eyes on along deep exhale, repeat this five times. Now put your object in front of you, your flower, open your eyes on an inhale and put your mind only on the flower for ten seconds as you gaze at it for 10 seconds, gently closing on your exhale, repeat this exercise up to ten times. As  your practice grows, you will be able to not only hold your gaze for longer and longer periods of time, you will also continue to observe the flower even when your eyes are closed; you will still see and identify with, and only with, the flower. This improves your well being and your overall ability to concentrate in your waking life, you will likely see the world in new and different ways. It’s common when beginning this practice to experience some stinging or tearing while you are working up to longer periods of time, this is totally normal and is not harming your vision. After you have practiced with the flower, you can move on to other objects or pictures, maybe a tree or a body of water…remembering all the while that as you see the object, either externally or internally, your mind assumes the form of the object. A very common dharana meditation practice is candle gazing, where your object is a lit candle, this is a particularly calming, yet powerful, meditation that I highly recommend as a second or third stage in your dharana practice. There are really no limits or parameters on dharana other than to keep practicing and gently increase and move yourself forward. Your eyes will likely be eased from strain and stress with just a 5 minute practice of dharana each day, as well as begin to see things in a new way and the task for you is to find out what that means to you and your world, because seeing is believing!

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About alpine integrated medicine

AIM is based on the idea that when we martial our collective expertise, we can achieve great health outcomes for our patients. A truly integrated clinic, AIM's practitioners work together to provide an experience tailored to each individual. We believe in the power of natural healing, combined with the most current medical science available.
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