It isn’t easy to get focused, and I respect that. Although focusing on a particular aspect of my yoga practice is something I could improve at, the yogic principle known as samyama has been a powerful tool in taking my meditation or asana sessions to new heights. This practice incorporates concentration, mediation, and surrender to reach a more profound and expanded awareness. The goal of yogic practice is to achieve deep stillness of the mind.
What does Samyama mean
This word comprises two parts, sam meaning “together or binding” and Yama representing “discipline.” It combines three of the most advanced yogic techniques: concentration, meditation, absorption, or loss of awareness. This practice cultivates discrimination and introspection, which helps us discover our higher or accurate Self. Swami Sivananda describes samyama (perfect control of the mind) as “perfect control over the mind.”
Samyama has spiritual effects
The Sutras explain the various “spiritual abilities” a yogi may attain by practicing samyama. Patanjali warns that spiritual effects can be dangerous, even if impossible. Samyama’s main benefit is to give awareness and insight to remove the five kleshas, the negative mental patterns which obscure our true nature. It also purifies the mind to develop prajna–understanding, listening, and contemplation. Gradually, over many years of dedicated yoga practice, samyama is mastered, and its benefits are realized.
The Yoga Sutras mention samyama in the third chapter. Patanjali explains that samyama occurs when the final three of the eight limbs of yoga are practiced simultaneously. The three limbs of yoga are concentration meditation and samadhi, or letting one’s “self” dissolve.
It’s true that, until recently, I felt book three of The Sutras was forbidden. This is because a teacher encouraged me to read this section after diligently practicing the two first books of the four-book text. The more I incorporate samyama in my meditation practice, the more convinced I am that waiting may not be necessary. The Sutra 3.5 states, “samyama is the key to the light of wisdom.” So why wait?
Samyama: How to Practice it
You can start practicing samyama by choosing an external or internal focus point. The Sutras recommend consulting with a meditation teacher before choosing a focal point. However, if you intend to explore the power of intentional concentration, you can use some simple and accessible techniques.
You can begin by focusing on your internal focus. Next time you are on your mat, pay attention to your breath. It will move in and out of the body. You can keep your attention on your breath throughout the whole practice. Take note of your mind’s tendency to wander and try to bring your attention back to the breath. You may be able to become entirely absorbed by the rhythms of your exhales and inhales.
Consider integrating a drishti or gaze-point during your practice to focus externally. Drishti helps quiet the mind by bringing awareness to our thoughts’ pace. In Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, the drishti point is located at the tip of the nose, while in Adho Mukha Svanasana, the gaze point will be the navel. Set an intention the next time you practice an asana to use drishti during the practice and see how much you can concentrate before your mind starts to wander. Use the moment your mind leaves your gaze point to bring your attention back.
A meditation technique that allows you to focus externally involves holding a soft gaze fixed on an object, such as a candle. Try to observe the effect of maintaining your focus for a long time on the chosen thing. See if your sense of yourself seems to disappear inside the item. This feeling of dissolving Self allows you to feel the sensation of samadhi or Oneness through Meditation, a crucial step in mastering samyama.
What are the first steps to Samyama
The journey to samyama should be viewed as a journey. It starts with small moments where you integrate your focus, leading to a profound place over time. It can be an arduous, lonely, demoralizing, and demanding process. This journey can be a wonderful one of self-discovery and transformation. It is helpful to receive support, inspiration, and encouragement from the community or a meditation teacher. To achieve the best results, it is recommended that you practice daily sadhana.