Like a Flame in a Windless Place: Ekagrata

The attainment of the Samadhi state involves the elimination of all-pointedness [i.e. wandering] of the mind and the rise of one-pointedness [i.e. concentration].

Yoga Sutra 3.11, trans. Edwin Bryant

Under the appearance of thought, there is really an indefinite and disordered flickering, fed by sensations words, and memory. The first duty of the yogin is to think-that is, not to let himself think. This is why Yoga practice begins with ekagrata, which darns the mental stream and thus constitutes a 'psychic mass,' a solid and unified continuum.

Mircea Eliade

When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place.

Bhagavad Gita, 6.19-20

Ekagrata, one-pointedness, is yoga’s solution to taming the restlessness of the wandering mind. Closely related to the practice of dharana (concentration), it is the practice of focusing the mind into a single stream of perception.

Just as the mind has the ability to go outward in a centrifugal movement (away from the center), it also has the power to turn inward in a centripetal direction (toward the center). The latter is what we develop through practicing ekagrata.

Its not so much about trying to stop the mind, but rather directing the flow of attention inward and fixing the continuous stream of our awareness on a chosen object.  In this way, all the various mental energies, including thoughts, feelings and sense perceptions, converge on a singular inner focus and stay there for a while.

One-pointedness brings joy and a sense of freedom. Recognizing that the term yoga refers both to the journey and the destination, we understand that becoming fully absorbed in the process of performing asana IS the yoga .Ekagrata allows us to be in each stage of our pose from start to finish, breathing, feeling, sensing, noticing, responding, and even relishing.

Holding poses for longer timings develops our capacity to hold a one-pointed focus.

For those with a regular inversion practice, here is a sequence I worked with recently to witness and reign in the wanderings of my mind:

Opening Postures

Adho Mukha Svanasana with forehead support (2 minutes)

Adho Mukha Svanasana pedaling the feet

Adho Mukha Svanasana- Lunge - Adho Mukha Svanasana – Uttanasana - Ardha Uttanasana - Uttansana – Urdhva Hastasana - Tadasana

Surya Namaskar A

Surya Namaskar B

Urdha Prasarita Padasana 20x      

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)

Uttanasana

Pincha Mayurasana

Balasana

Standing Poses

Tadasana

Parsvakonasana

Trikonasana

Parsvottanasana

Parivrtta Trikonasana

Prasarita Padottanasana hands clasped behind back

Supported Backbends                                                                                           

Block Paryankasana

Block Supta Virasana

 

Sirsasana 1 and variations                                                                       

Hold for 3-5 minutes before beginning variations. Hold variations for 20-30 seconds each.

·      Parsva

·      Eka Pada

·      Parsvaikapada

·      Upavistha Konasana in Sirsasana

·      Baddha Konasana in Sirsasana

Balasana

Setu Bandha with block under sacrum                                     

Salamba Sarvangasana and variations                                                 

·      Eka Pada

·      Parsvaikapada

·      Halasana

·      Parsva Halasana

·      Supta Konasana

·      Karna Pidasana

·      Sarvangasana

·      Parsva

·      Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (use blocks under feet as needed)

·      Sarvangasana

·      Niralamba Sarvangasana

·      Halasana

Finishing Postures                                                                                    

Jathara Parivartanasana with bent knees 2x each side

Supta Padangusthasana 1

Supta Balasana

Savasana