24 Jan This week on the Mat – Pratyahara
Shall I withdraw, or shall It always be
“Look at Me everyone? I can do this.. And I can do that!”
Pratyahara is the 5th Limb in the 8 Limbs of Yoga, Withdrawing of the senses and the world. Be in the World but not of it. This does not mean we go ahead and act all hippy dippy without cares, responsibilities and diligence. But it also does not mean we have the right to be rude, senseless, insensitive and self entitled either! I am by nature a very sensitive girl (this is my weakness), I take things to heart, if you say harsh words it affects my day, if I see an animal or a person in distress it affects my day, so, my yoga has to educate me to gather my senses around me, pray, breath, be mindful and carry on with my day to day activities and learn whatever I had to learn from that day’s lessons. The idea of withdrawing and taking the practice of Pratyahara is to have the discipline to be in your own company, to control the senses, to detach even for a moment and be joyous in “Just Being” and “Connecting to the Divine”. To do the best we can in whatever situations without too much or too little analysing. The balance of oneself and your world. All the practices of yoga guide us to choose our responses instead of merely reacting.
This 5th Limb also teaches us to not overindulge either. The practice of fasting can help us to appreciate the goodness and abundance of food we take for granted in our everyday life. If you eat meat every day, try going without for a day or two. I have a new profound respect for Ekadashi, a fast every 11th day of the waxing and waning moon. I didn’t used to enjoy this practice as much when I was a little girl but now special fasting foods make this so much more easier and cleansing for the digestive system that I actually look forward to the challenge, the Tapas of Ekadashi.
If you frequently look towards stimulates to calm the nerves down or just unwind during each evening, then perhaps add breathing, meditation or your favourite asana to the mix. Or push yourself to go without something you enjoy for a day or so. Life has to be enjoyed, Absolutely it must be enjoyed. So you do want to bring the spirit of Pratyahara as a welcome sensation rather than a burden. Going to retreats to nurture the soul and mind, having a nice soak in your tub bath, taking a hike, spending time with seniors to get away from the younger folks, use the phone to talk rather than to text for a while, or better still no electronics for a period of time! No gossiping, just talk positive for a week….. Many many ways to use Pratyahara to your advantage and to include it in the practice of Yoga. When you find yourself in a yoga class, play with just doing the asanas without the ego. Without the feeling of I must do the contortions otherwise it doesn’t look good or my neighbour next to me won’t praise me on how good my shape looks! These are just mere examples. Experiment with this discipline and journal your findings and conclusions. Coming into your being may not be so bad as you thought.
This week’s Asana Challenge
Kurmasana (Tortoise pose)
This deep Asana allows the shoulders to open underneath the knees for a bind to take place, the hips to be exposed into a deep forward bend and the torso to lengthen and elongate towards the ground in front eventually allowing the elbows to touch the surface. Squeeze the knees into the shoulders, press the abdomen into the lower spine and the chin digs forward into the yoga mat. As all things close down, shut off and you hear the sound of your own deep Ujjayi breathing, then observe, reflect and notice how the senses quiet down and everything around you makes way into stillness. There are many variations for this pose so work on the one that suits you, not the classroom.
Mantra for the week
Peace Peace Peace !