Understanding Samyama: The Combined Practice Of Dharana, Dhyana, & Samadhi


In the vast array of yogic experiences, there is the transformative process known as Samyama.

Samyama is a combination of three distinct yet interrelated yogic practices: Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

You may have explored these limbs of yoga separately, but when practiced together, Samyama is born.

Learning to tap into Samyama can be a powerful tool for self-realization and inner growth, providing you with a deeper understanding of consciousness and the universe.

In this article, we will delve into its essence, exploring the philosophy, techniques, and how you can start to learn more about this state of consciousness:

  • Quick Introduction to the 8 Limbs of Yoga
  • What is Samyama
  • The Essence of Samyama
  • Applications of Samyama in Daily Life

Join us to learn more about Samyama.

a woman's hands in a mudra resting on her knee in meditation

Quick Introduction to the 8 Limbs of Yoga

To understand Samyama, let’s talk for a moment about The Eight Limbs of Yoga, outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which provide a comprehensive guide to living a balanced and fulfilling life.

The Yoga Sutras are a collection of aphorisms that provide guidance on various aspects of yoga, including its philosophy, practices, and the path to spiritual realization.

They are:

  • Yamas: Ethical principles, including non-violence and truthfulness.
  • Niyamas: Personal observances like self-discipline and contentment.
  • Asana: Physical postures for health and stillness.
  • Pranayama: Breath control to regulate energy.
  • Pratyahara: Withdrawal of senses from external distractions.
  • Dharana: Concentration to focus the mind.
  • Dhyana: Meditation for sustained awareness.
  • Samadhi: Union with the divine or ultimate self, leading to spiritual liberation.
four people mediting cross legged in a yoga class

What is Samyama

The term “Samyama” (संयम) is a Sanskrit word that can be translated and understood in various ways, but it typically carries the sense of “control,” “restraint,” or “discipline.”

Specifically, it refers to the combined practice of Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (absorption or enlightenment) in the context of yoga and meditation.

  • “Sam” (सम्): This prefix in Sanskrit often denotes “together” or “united.
  • Yama” (यम): This term is commonly translated as “restraint,” “control,” or “discipline.” In the context of yoga, it refers to the ethical and moral principles that guide one’s behavior.

So, when you combine “Sam” and “Yama” it can be understood as “the united practice of control” or “the combined discipline of concentration, meditation, and absorption.”

This consciousness state is primarily mentioned and elaborated upon in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a foundational text in the philosophy of yoga.

It is discussed in the third and fourth chapters of the Yoga Sutras, particularly in Sutras 3.1 through 3.6 and Sutras 3.7 through 3.8.

Read more here.

a woman's side profile meditating

Here’s a brief overview of where Samyama is mentioned and explained in the Yoga Sutras:

  1. Chapter 3 – Vibhuti Pada (The Chapter on Powers): In this chapter, Patanjali discusses the various siddhis or psychic powers that can be attained through yogic practices. Samyama is introduced as a means to attain these extraordinary powers. Sutras 3.1 to 3.6 describe the stages of Samyama and emphasize the importance of concentration, meditation, and the integration of these practices to gain insight and mastery over your mind.
  2. Chapter 3 – Vibhuti Pada (The Chapter on Powers) – Sutra 3.7 and 3.8: Sutras 3.7 and 3.8 specifically mention the practical application of Samyama. They state that through Samyama on various objects, one can gain knowledge of past and future events and even understand the thoughts and intentions of others. This suggests that it is not just a tool for spiritual growth but can also be used for gaining insights and abilities.
  3. Chapter 4 – Kaivalya Pada (The Chapter on Liberation): In this final chapter, Patanjali discusses the ultimate goal of yoga, which is liberation. This fourth chapter deals with the concept of ultimate liberation from the cycle of birth and death. It’s here that the culmination of the yogic journey, which includes Samyama, leads to self-realization and the dissolution of the individual self into the universal consciousness.

Watch this informative video that goes in-depth into Sutra 3.4 to help you understand the concept of Samyama:

Samyama is a key element of the Yoga Sutras, illustrating the depth and complexity of yogic practices and philosophy.

It provides an approach to developing concentration, meditation, and insight, ultimately leading you toward self-realization and the exploration of the deeper realms of consciousness.

While it can lead to extraordinary experiences and bliss, the primary aim of Samyama, as described in the Yoga Sutras, is the realization of the true self and the path to liberation.

The Essence of Samyama

It’s crucial to grasp its essence within the context of yoga philosophy.

Samyama is often described as the concentrated, meditative process of focusing on a single object or subject, followed by the profound experience of merging with that focus.

It is not merely a mental exercise but a spiritual journey aimed at unveiling the layers of consciousness and tapping into self-awareness.

It’s an intricate path that requires dedication, patience, and a deep understanding of yourself.

a man and woman sitting cross legged meditating

1# Dharana: The First Step

The journey begins with Dharana, the practice of concentration.

In Dharana, you’ll direct your attention to a specific object, thought, or concept. This singular focus acts as a training ground for the restless mind, which for many of us tends to wander endlessly.

To practice Dharana, choose a point of focus, such as a candle flame, a mantra, or the ebb and flow of your own breath.

Sit in a comfortable position, keep your eyes open or close them, and gently redirect your mind’s attention to the chosen focus whenever it drifts away.

With consistent practice, you can develop the ability to hold your concentration steadily.

Dharana cultivates mental discipline, enabling you to move to the next stage of Samyama.

Dhyana: The Flow of Meditation

Dhyana, the second stage, is often referred to as meditation.

While Dharana is about focusing the mind on a single point, Dhyana is the state of sustained, uninterrupted concentration.

It is in Dhyana that you will start to experience a profound connection between yourself and the object of meditation.

To transition from Dharana to Dhyana seamlessly, there is no technique, just practice.

Allow your focus to remain on the chosen object or concept without the need for active effort. Your mind becomes absorbed in the meditation, and distractions fade away. This state of flow, where the meditator and the object become one, is Dhyana.

Dhyana deepens the meditative experience, paving the way for the ultimate stage of Samyama.

a woman meditating cross legged in a purple top

Samadhi: The State of Oneness

Samadhi is the pinnacle of the process.

It is a state of profound absorption, where you and the object of meditation merge into a singular consciousness.

In this state, the boundaries of the self begin to dissolve, and you may begin to experience an unparalleled sense of unity.

As you continue to meditate, you may have moments where your sense of self disappears, and you become fully immersed in the object of meditation.

These glimpses of Samadhi are fleeting but profound.

Samadhi cannot be achieved through force; it arises naturally from the dedicated and consistent practice of the other Limbs of the yogic path.

Over time, with persistent practice, you may enter longer and deeper states of Samadhi, but the goal is not to remain there.

It’s like the moment you enter and sustain a headstand for the first time; everything falls into place, the alignment is on point, and your breath is steady. But after a while, your attention drifts, the shape wobbles, and you must come out of the asana.

a woman meditating close eyed with her hands in prayer

Applications of Samyama in Daily Life

While Samyama is often associated with the meditative journey, its principles and benefits can be applied to various aspects of your daily life.

Here are some ways in which cultivating and practicing Samyama can enhance your everyday life:

  • The focus developed in this state can improve your ability to concentrate on tasks, boosting productivity and efficiency.
  • Regular practice can help you alleviate stress and anxiety by promoting mental clarity and emotional balance.
  • This experience can offer profound insights into the nature of the self, fostering personal growth and spiritual awakening.
  • Deepen your understanding of others by cultivating empathy and reducing judgments born of a discombobulated and fragmented mind.
  • The heightened state of awareness can spark creativity and innovation in your life.

To Conclude

Samyama is a profound yogic practice that encompasses the states of Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

It is a journey of self-discovery and transformation, offering a path to enhanced concentration, reduced stress, and deep self-awareness.

By incorporating the principles of Samyama into daily life, you can experience a deeper connection with the world and a more profound understanding of yourself.

Samyama is the process of moving through these three stages of concentration and meditation, the last three steps of the 8-limbed path, and is considered an advanced and highly transformative practice within the yogic tradition.

Through Samyama, you can gain insights into the nature of your mind, consciousness, and reality itself.

It’s a journey aimed at acquiring self-knowledge and a new understanding of the nature of life.

Dive deeper into yogic theory and philosophy by heading here next.

Photo of author
Laia is an Afro-Catalan accessible and inclusive yoga & meditation teacher. She has trained in hatha, vinyasa, trauma-informed yoga, yin yoga, and restorative yoga and holds E-RYT 500 and YACEP accreditations with the Yoga Alliance. Additionally, she is a freelance writer and translator, publishing in Catalan, English, and Spanish. As a former professional athlete who lives with a chronic illness, Laia has gained valuable insights into the benefits of self-care and the importance of pausing and slowing down. She is dedicated to sharing accessible and sustainable practices of yoga and meditation to help people create a more harmonious life. Being a black and chronically ill individual, her mission is to empower non-normative yoga teachers to find their unique voices and develop tools to make wellness practices accessible to the communities they serve, thereby taking up space and creating a more inclusive and diverse yoga industry. Furthermore, as a writer and creative, she is passionate about supporting other creatives and innovators. She fosters a genuine community dedicated to finding balance while staying productive and inspired. Laia has developed unique techniques that intertwine yoga and meditation with writing, journaling, and other accessible methods to help each other stay creative and mindful.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.