Currently we have all withdrawn into our houses to help control the spread of the Corona Virus.
Withdrawal is actually part of the yoga path. Pratyahara is the fourth limb of yoga. Often compared to a tortoise who draws its limbs inward. We do asana to strengthen our body and currently to strengthen our immunity. Pratyahara strengthens our mental immunity so that we can weather life uncertainty with equanimity.
Please note that pratyahara comes after pranayama which is the ability to move our subtle energy of breath, this can be achieved after working with the body and pratyahara can be achieved after working with the breath. After that comes dharana or concentration. We can not concentrate unless we are first are able to remove distractions. I.e. you can study once you are in a quiet place.
“Many spiritual paths include going on retreat to withdraw from distracting or disturbing stimulation and connect to a deeper inner source….” The change of scenery, new activities, the removal from regular social obligations, are surely a significant part of such retreats. All facilitate the act of pratyāhāra that Patañjali here describes.”
Yet Patañjali is not talking about a physical removal. He specifies that this withdrawal is “of the senses” (indriyāṇām). This is a retreat that can happen anywhere, in one’s own city, on one’s own block, in one’s own home. It is an internal process.”
Do you feel like you are on a retreat? If no, what would change your experience if you were thinking of it as a retreat?
Pratya is to remove, take away away and ahara is food or nourishment. There are three types of nourishment , what you take into your body such a food, what comes into your senses such as what you watch or read or listen to and lastly your associations or relationships.
It’s not that you withdraw from life and live in a cave but you remove or learn to discriminate when your senses are taking your towards your higher purpose or further away.
“…., control of the senses is attained not by pulling the mind away from the sense object but by redirecting attention toward something elevating”
It’s interesting, that not being able to see people has brought to light the associations that are nourishing and those that aren’t. What’s nourishing you right now? And what is pulling you away from your higher purpose?
Right now, now more than ever you can choose what you hear, see and who you associate with. Before, a subway ride to work would be an assault on your senses and one that you had no choice.
Pratyahara builds up our mental immunity so we are not sucked into other people’s dramas or less triggered. My teacher, Mary Dunn called this emotional vegetarianism. I love that idea. Someone is pulling you emotionally and you just don’t bite.
“The practice of pratyahara is an education in the proper use of the senses. It requires and cultivates discipline, discrimination, memory, and courage: discipline to shift attention from sense objects; discrimination to assess the appropriate use of the senses and to understand the motives behind the compulsion to remain engaged in objects that catch the senses’ attention; memory to examine the benefits and liabilities resulting from the use, abuse, and overuse of the senses; and courage to temporarily give up indulging a particular sense in order serve the purpose of Self-realization.
“Pratyahara brings the senses back to their source: the essential nature of the mind. This pure sattwic aspect of mind is characterized by tranquility, clarity, illumination, intelligence, and the ability to discriminate.
“When we turn our awareness to the body and breath, to the subtle sensations of physical responses, to the body in space, engaged with the elements, we may begin to sense our selves differently. Turning inward, says psychotherapist Peter A. Levine, is how we come to a more instinctive and fuller understanding of our lives.”
*Jaganath Carrerra Inside the Yoga Sutras: A Comprehensive Sourcebook for the Study & Practice of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
WEEKLY PRACTICE SUPPORT
Are you feeding your senses that takes you towards or away from a path to higher consciousness? Can you be courageous to to suspend those activities that take you away from your path?
Here are a few poses that draw our senses inward Can you add two more? Or can you think of a way to practice that brings the outer body to the inner, the periphery to the core, the muscles to the bone?
I’m going to use the Sanskrit names. The name of the pose, gives you the sense of the benefit or direction of the poses! I’ve given some hints- link below.
Kurmasana- Kurma is an animal that has a shell
Malasana- Mala is a prayer bead often a necklace or bracelet
Halasana- this what you use you prepare the fields
Karnipidasana- Karna is ear.
Don’t know what these poses are? Click here for a link to the Illustrated Light on Yoga
And let me know what you discover!!! Do you want a forum to share ideas and experiences?
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Online is the way to go right now! Next week, I’m going to speak about a very important obstacle to practice……
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