त्रयमेकत्र संयमः॥४॥

trayam-ekatra saṁyamḥ |3.4|

The practice of these three [dhāraṇā – dhyāna – samādhi] upon one object is called saṁyamḥ


tajjayāt-prajñālokḥ |3.5|

By the mastery of saṁyama comes the light of knowledge


Saṁyama comes from sam “together, completely” and yama “control, restraint, discipline” and can be translated as “complete control” or “total restraint.”

The theory of saṁyama according to the Yoga Sūtra is;

Dhāraṇā (Concentration): This is the initial stage where we focus our mind on a single point or object. The goal is to keep our attention steady and avoid distractions. This could be a physical object, a sound, a mantra, the breath, or even a part of the body. It is about training the mind to hold its attention on one thing over a longer period – still interrupted – practiced through will power and letting go

Dhyāna (Meditation): Once we achieve steady concentration, the practice deepens into dhyāna. In this stage, the focus becomes uninterrupted, and you enter a state of flow where the mind is fully immersed in the object of concentration. There are no thoughts of the past or future, just a continuous stream of awareness directed at the object – uninterrupted – this cannot be entered at will

Samādhi (Absorption): The final stage of saṁyama is samādhi, where the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation. The sense of individual self dissolves, and there is a profound sense of unity and pure awareness. In this state, the mind is completely absorbed, and there is a feeling of transcendence beyond the normal boundaries of self and thought – no sense of time and space – blissful stage – cannot be entered at will.

Saṁyama is thus the seamless progression and merging of these three practices into one unified practice. It allows for deeper insights and understanding of the object of meditation and can lead to heightened states of awareness and profound wisdom (prajñā). Through saṁyama, practitioners can unlock greater mental and spiritual capabilities, gaining clarity and insight into the nature of reality and the Self.

This practice is specifically defined by master Patañjali and is part of what is labelled as aṣṭāṅgayoga (eight-limbed path of yoga) to reach enlightenment. Previously we have delved deeply into the concept of avidyā (ignorance, misperception) and that this is our root obstacle to enlightenment. Overcoming avidyā, being free of ignorance, is the goal of all yoga which is union, integration, oneness with all, our natural state. Training present moment awareness (one-pointedness of the mind) will eventually weaken ignorance, as we observe reality as it is, without letting it be clouded and coloured by our conditionings, such as preferences and dislikes.

In class, we follow the five elements of vinyāsa krama: being mindful of each breath, practicing ujjayi breathing, fixing our gaze (dṛṣṭi), applying mūla bandha (applied from the beginning until the very end), setting a high intention and moving consciously with the breath. This deeply connects us to the present moment, allowing to perceive reality as it is—the truth of the moment. As our concentration purges all thought and we restrain from reacting to sensual or mental modifications we train our equanimity (upekṣā). Thus we can clear our inner and outer vision to perceive things as they are, not as we wish them to be. This creates a potent breeding ground for a saṁyama practice.

Making ourselves aware of our obstacles over and over again will also lead to more understanding.

This month, I would like to share the work of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who was one of the most enlightened teachers of our time, to guide us even further on how to overcome ignorance. His teachings are rooted in smṛti (mindfulness), samādhi (pure awareness, bliss, absorption, contemplation), and prajñā (wisdom, pure and transcendental knowledge).

Enlightenment is growing all the time. It is not something that happens once and is then complete – Thich Nhat Hanh


-Dean Galip