In my class this evening we worked with dharana - concentration. This one-pointed concentration is meant for a meditative state. Like B.K.S. Iyengar, however, I believe that we can maintain a meditative state when working with our asana practice (physical practice - the poses).
In is commentary on the Yoga Sutras, Edwin Bryant states that "concentration (dharana) can be directed toward parts of the anatomy or external objects and result in wonderful powers." These powers can include focus or a calmness - for example, anyone that has done Warrior III realizes that it takes some wonderful powers. Bryant goes on to say that the focus can be on "the circle of the navel, the lotus in the heart, the light in the brain, the tip of the nose, the tip of the tongue, or any external object."
Experiment with these focuses. In balancing poses, I like to use external objects. In Warrior III I find a focal point on the floor and stick to it. In Ashtanga Yoga, they would call this a drishti - a focal point. Allow everything else to soften so that you are focused on that one point, make it the only thing that exists to you - this really takes away the "I can't do it" and allows you to enjoy the sweetness of the pose.
In poses where the chest is revolving open - triangle, extended side angle - I like to focus on the heart. I do not mean looking at it - but having a mental focus there. Such effort goes into revolving the chest open, making that the focus of your mind is very helpful, beautiful, and rewarding - I find that there is a lot of devotion in focusing on the heart.
Is anyone currently using this or have any thoughts on dharana?