By Get Lifted
Over the past few weeks I have become distracted with all of the buzz in the Yoga community. “Shit Yogis Say” gave me a good laugh, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” was published in the New York Times, and the yoga advertisement from Equinox with Briohny Smyth got the attention of Yogis and Non-Yogis. Distractions happen, but the key is to let those things happen and then get back on track. So what I have done to bring myself back into awareness, back into focus is go back to basics. Back to the roots of Yoga, its purpose, its drive, and its essence.
Using the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, we will take an 8 week journey through Yoga’s 8 component parts. Breaking them down and making them the focal point of practice. This can be used to bring attention back to the practice, back to awareness, back to the roots. ”By sustained practice of all the component parts of yoga, the impurities dwindle away and wisdom’s radiant light shines forth with discriminative knowledge.” Yoga Sutras of Patanjali II, 28 as interpreted by Mukunda Stiles
This week we will start with the 5th component part of the 8 limbs of Yoga:
Pratyahara the ‘withdrawal of the senses’
Pratyahara is one of the most powerful. It is a bridge between the external aspects of the yoga practice and the internal aspects of the yoga practice. Actualizing pratyahara allows a yoga practitioner to effectively engage into the practice of Samyama – concentration, meditation, and Samadhi – which is the ultimate goal of the Yoga practice.
You are probably wondering, so what does it have to do with withdrawal of the senses? Well, at the stage of pratyahara, the consciousness of the individual is internal, causing the sensations from the senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell not to reach their respective centers in the brain.
I can already anticipate question number 2, Why would I want to withdraw from taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell? Well, it is not withdrawal in what you would think of withdrawal. Pratyahara means withdrawal of the senses from their objects. In doing this, one begins to master the senses allowing the mind to not be drawn by or attached to cravings, sensual pleasures, and desires. In the Katha Upanishad, the traditional five senses appear in allegorical representation as five horses drawing the “chariot” of the body, guided by the mind as “chariot driver”. Visualize this image for second… Withdrawal of the senses from their object gives us the ability to truly look inside, trains the mind for the process of contemplation of the True Self, and allows us to take the previous 4 external components of the yoga practice into the internal search of pure consciousness.
One of the most common practices for Pratyahara is Pranayama, wherein we automatically withdraw from the external and bring our focus inwards towards our breath, as connection with the external senses and stimuli are all severed gradually.
Summary of the 8 limbs of Yoga and a preview of what we have left to cover.
Yama – self-control, self-restraint, moral principles
Niyama – precepts, observances, fixed rules
Asana – yoga pose
Pranayama – regulation of prana, lengthening of the prana
Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses from their objects (week 1)
Dharana - contemplation, concentration
Dhyana – meditation
About the author: Get Lifted is a Chicago area yoga instructor with ten years of background and experience in both practicing and teaching yoga. He has traveled the world practicing and studying with teachers deeply rooted in the ancient forms of the art, philosophy and science of the practice. His over 1,000 hours of yoga teacher training has been with instructors with combined yoga teaching experience of over 100 years; passing down the tradition of kriya, puja, pranayama, mantra, samyama, yoganidra and asana.
Tag: Yoga Sutras