I understand Dhyana to be meditation. I see asana practice as a form of meditation, also I see dance as meditation.
The Yoga Sutras define Dhyana as “absorption in meditation:”
“the repeated continuation, or uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus” [dharana]
There are many ways to meditate. Mantra, walking, creative flow, focus on another being or sun-gazing. Sun-gazing can also improve your eye-sight, as many people have attested. When I first started to meditate I would sit cross-legged on the floor with a straight spine and let my thoughts pass. Still acknowledge the thoughts, but then let them float away “like clouds in the sky”. Then I practiced walking meditation; stillness; and mantras. Then I studied Transcendental Meditation and continue a 20 minutes a.m. /20 minutes p.m. practice. It is effective in that there is less of a sense of being Time’s slave and more of a sense of calm through the day.
I see Dharana as single pointed concentration. I can see how this overlaps with Saucha and Dhyana as they are all aspects of techniques for self realisation.
The Yoga Sutras define Dharana as concentration: “the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place, and is the sixth of the eight rungs.”
When I was young I used to moon gaze and candle gaze until my eyes watered; I later learnt this was called Trataka. Also being in the flow of art and music feel like dharana to me. When you listen to people talk, or theatre, or poetry, if you can stay completely focused on the words, you are practicing dharana. When I teach – whether it is yoga to adults or creative writing to teenagers – I try to practice dharana, to concentrate fully on the students’ needs at that moment. When I was seriously ill I concentrated my attention on ways to get well efficiently. Probably in all aspects of life we have the opportunity to practice dharana.
Saucha is purity, or cleansing. I understand it to be something that will help you to be open to universal consciousness. If we can cultivate purity then we have less obstacles to being in tune with the Truth of ourselves and the Infinite.
The Yoga Sutras define Saucha as “cleanliness and purity of body and mind” and this brings ” a purification of the subtle mental essence, a pleasantness, goodness and gladness of feeling, a one-pointedness with intentness, the conquest or mastery over the senses, and a fitness, qualification, or capability for self-realisation.”
Techniques and practices that support and cultivate Saucha are a clean diet, conscious nutrition; morning Sadhana; meditation to cleanse the mind of junk; pranayama especially good for cleansing the energetic body; and kriyas.
For my Saucha I try seasonal fasts; cleanses; a forty day green diet; I eat a vegan diet (my main motivation for this is Ahimsa); and practice TM almost every day. I love pranayama and practice most days, though sometimes only 5 minutes. I also integrate pranayama to my Sadhana, as I have a cherished personal practice in kundalini yoga.
Have a play with Dhyana, Dharana and Saucha and see what comes about for you!