In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the eight-step system of yoga, meditative practices begin only with the fifth step. This fact is familiar to people who organize Pratyahara, control of the senses, is the first step, which opens the door to an amazing contemplation of one’s inner world. The next step is Dharana. This is concentration itself.

We choose an object on which

young girl training yoga near a lake

we would like to concentrate, and we narrow our consciousness, like a laser beam, so much so that all attention is focused only on this object. Oddly enough, in today’s world most people practice Dharana. Only most often it’s Dharana with a negative message. When a person is irritated by something or there’s just some destructive factor in life, which has a big personal meaning, he may think about it literally 24 hours a day. In particularly severe cases he may not even eat or sleep. This is a striking example of deep Dharana – concentration on an object.

When perfection in dharana is achieved then it flows into dhyana – meditation. This is the highest form of meditation. In the process of Dhyana one becomes fully merged with the object of one’s meditation and becomes one with it, not separating oneself from the object of one’s meditation. It is in the state of Dhyana that the principle of “what you think about, that is what you become” is fully realized. It is for this reason that we should be attentive to our thoughts and, most importantly, to the objects on which we concentrate. If one regularly condemns someone, criticizes someone, he is thereby committing a typical Dharana, a concentration on an object, which may lead one to start adopting the qualities of the one he is criticizing. This is why you should concentrate your attention in everyday life only on positive things, and simply ignore the negative ones as much as possible. Achieving perfection in Dharana leads one to the state of Samadhi. Samadhi is the dissolution of individual consciousness into cosmic consciousness. This is the way of mastering meditation as described by the sage Patanjali. According to Patanjali, before mastering meditative practices, a yogi should first master the moral disciplines of Yama and Niyama, and then attain a certain success in the practices of asana and pranayama. Why this sequence?

It’s all explained logically. The practice of yoga gives you energy and if you don’t master the moral discipline, you may go down the demonic path. And thus he will harm himself and the world around him. And this applies not only to meditation: no one should practice yoga without mastering moral principles. As for learning asanas and pranayama, it is surprising that in order to successfully practice meditation one must have a trained physical body, because sitting for an hour or so (which is how long a serious meditation technique lasts) in a meditative asana with a straight back is not an easy task. In order to accomplish this task, one should purify the energy channels in the body and achieve a certain level of physical fitness. Only after that can one master the meditative practices.