Happy Mindful Monday, yogis and yoginis! Another Sunday, another snowfall and another day closer to the end of 2016! As we wind down this year, it’s a great time to start to slow down and reflect. Our complete yoga practice provides us with the tools to do just that.
If you’ve been following our blog weekly, you’ll know that we’ve been covering Ashtanga yoga – the eight limbed path of yoga. Below is a quick recap of the previous four limbs that we’ve disussed.
- Yamas – the guidelines for social behavior: clean your home
- Niyamas – self-disciplines: reverence for your home
- Asanas – yoga poses: start to settle into your home
- Pranayama – breath control, life energy: animate your home
This now brings us to our fifth limb, Pratyahara, the withdrawal of external senses, to rest in your home.
Our conscious breathing sets the stage for Pratayhara, where we transcend sensory stimulation and draw focus inward. We stay fully aware of the five senses, but we observe objectively and therefore the mind can rest. We stop living off the things that stimulate; we dispassionately observe the cycle of stimulation and reaction and are no longer a slave to the senses. No longer functioning in their usual manner, the senses become extraordinarily sharp.
Concentration, in the yoga room or the boardroom, begins as a battle with the distracting senses. In mastering pratyahara, you no longer unnecessarily respond to the itch on your nose or hear the baby crying in the restaurant. You are able to fix your focus on your main objective.
According to Patanjali, the eight limbs work together: The first five steps — yama, niyama asana, pranayama, and pratyahara — are the preliminaries of building the foundation for a spiritual life. They are concerned with the body and the brain. The last three, which we will cover in subsequent posts, are concerned with reconditioning the mind. So it becomes clearer that yoga is nothing more than a process which enables us to stop and look at the habits of our own minds; only in this way can we understand the nature of happiness and unhappiness, and thus transcend them both. Yoga provides an opportunity to ultimately attain enlightenment or the full realization of oneness with Spirit. Enlightenment lasts forever, while a flat tummy can disappear in a week. Trust me, I know of which I speak. The tummy part, that is – I’m still working on the enlightenment part.
Until next week, my friends… Breathe. Sweat. Smile.