Chapter two of Patanjalis Yoga Sutras lists the eight limbs of yoga and includes a definition of Dhyana, which is the seventh limb.  

Dhyana can be interpreted in several ways and is said to derive from the root dhi, which means repository or mind, and yana, meaning a vehicle for moving or going. Another version is dhyai, meaning ponder over, contemplate, reflect upon or call to mind.   

Dhyana in practice means a continuous stream of awareness on an object without interruption, or thoughts related to other aspects of the object. The sixth limb is called Dharna and is defined as holding the mind steady on an object, but in a more general sense. As an attempt at interpreting this imagine   

a yogi in a state of dharana, who is contemplating full moon on a clear night and is aware of the brightness of the moon, the black sky, the craters on the surface and so on. A yogi in Dhyana will only be aware of the moon without any thoughts about colour etc.     

DHYANA MUDRA (excerpts from HYP of Svatmarma)

Dhyana mudra is said to be the technique, which frees the mind from all thoughts. Practice of unswerving concentration of the thoughts, on any of the elements is defined as Dhyana.

Dhyana is of two kinds, saguna and nirguna. Saguna has features like colour etc, while nirguna is known as absolute.

Adopt a comfortable seated posture, with the eyes gazing at an external point, while the mind is focused inside, keeping the body straight and remaining still. This is Dhyana mudra, which bestows success.

Maintain purity externally and internally and concentrate on Paramatma, who without support and undistracted. Doing so, one gets rid of the bondage of birth, and death.

The nature of Paramatma or Param brahma is suddha (pure, niralamba (transcending both form and formless) niramaya (pure) (immutability-unchanging)

The internal prana should be meditated upon, which holds all the creation, which gives an experience of the utmost blissful state and wherefrom the speech emanates.  (in this state prana enters shushumna, giving an experience of the absolute bliss. Prana wherefrom speech originates, should be meditated upon.


Follow these instructions for a Dhyana mudra practice.

Dhyana Mudra
  • Adopt a comfortable seated posture
  • Face a blank space such as a wall
  • Turn the awareness inside with eyes open
  • Practice being the observer without attachment
  • Develop the practice of an uninterrupted stream of awareness


A technique to aid the practice of Dhyana mudra is Prana Dharana which is turning the attention to the space between the breaths. The space between the breath is a calm space of non-duality, where the thoughts and noise in the mind calms, allowing for a deeper level of introspection. Practice turning the full awareness into this space and allow it to evolve. With practice the space between breaths becomes longer along with deeper levels of relaxed concentration.


Follow these instructions for a Prana Dharana practice.

Dhyana Mudra
  • Adopt a comfortable seated posture
  • Close the eyes and bring the awareness to the breath at the tip of the nose
  • Continue to be the observer of the breath coming and going  
  • Keeping the breath even (samavritti) helps calm the nervous system
  • Begin to allow a slight pause to appear between the breath  
  • Allow the space between breaths to evolve
  • Begin to turn the full awareness to the space rather than the breath  
  • As the space becomes bigger let the awareness stay there


Follow these instructions for a Pratyahara practice.

Developing a Pratyahara practice is an essential precursor for Dharana and Dhyana. Pratyahara is commonly referred to as sense withdrawal, but more correctly applied it is the practice of indifference to the information coming in through the senses.

If once seated for meditation practice, there is an awareness of a sound that leads to a chain of thoughts such as, is that for me, or do I need to investigate etc, then the practice will end there. If we are aware of a sound and remain indifferent to it, we will eventually progress onto Dharana.  


  • Adopt a comfortable seated posture
  • Practice a simple pranayama such as Samavritti for several minutes
  • Now begin Pratyahara by turning the attention one by one to the individual senses
  1. Shambhavi mudra (Vision). With open eyes turn the gaze up to the eyebrow centre keeping the focus soft.
  2. Nasikagra mudra (Smell). With the eyes open take the gaze to the tip of the nose keeping a soft focus.
  3. Jiva bandha (Taste). Touch the tip of the tongue to the space between the front teeth and the gum. Create a sustained gentle pressure with a relaxed jaw.
  4. Dhyana mudra (Touch). Place the palm of one hand in the other with both facing up resting in the lap.
  5. Om (Sound). Chant Om in three syllables starting with Aaaah, then Oooooh and going into Ummm, and focus on the vibrations of the ummmm at the crown of the head.

Spend a few minutes or more on each practice with full awareness, while practicing indifference to any sensations, thoughts or feelings that may arise.    

Martin Thompson.