Dharana is the beginning of the innermost quest. In the first 3 limbs (yama, niyama, and asana) the practitioner begins with the external quest – the firmness of the body. The movement from asana to pranayama to pratyaharatouches the inner quest – the steadiness of intelligence. The last 3 limbs (dharana, dyhana, and samadhi) comprise the innermost quest – the benevolence of the spirit.
Dharana translates as “concentration” specifically on one thing. The Yoga Sutras (I.17) describe 4 kinds of concentration; but to begin, we start with focus on an object (savitarka) like a candle, mantra or the breath. The practice is to move towards a single pointed (eka grata) state of consciousness.
In asana, we find the edges of awareness in the physical body; pranayamadraws us inward to the organic and energetic subtleties of the pose; pratyahara reaches inward to a quiet expression of the authentic self. Dharana is the stilling of the mind so that it rests in a an unchanging state.