INSPIRATION OF THE MONTH
INSPIRATION OF THE MONTH - August 2018
Pratyahara is the 5th out of the 8 limbs of yoga. It is often translated as “withdrawal of the senses”.
It’s when we start drawing (or withdrawing) away from the external world and find the stillness within ourselves regardless of what the senses experience in the external world.
Pratyahara is the transition point to the internal world. The practice of Pratyahara is meant to then lead to higher stated of consciousness: one pointed focus (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and bliss (samadhi).
Pratyahara has become even more important now that we live in a fast pace and digital world, constantly stimulating our senses and as a result; stimulating our mind and imprinting false impressions in the mind, which in turn can (and often) impact our wellbeing.
We can practice Pratyahara in any of the asanas. We can practice it through our days even. Brahamari - the humming bee breath is a beautiful practice for Pratyahara. The external sound allows us to connect with the internal vibrations.
Yoga Nidra is another practice that starts with the external sounds, moves through the physical body and then takes us to the deeper layers of our being.
I also find that forward bends are the asanas that often give us an opportunity to draw the awareness inwards. To quiet the mind. Close the eyes. And listen. We can begin hearing the stories we have been telling ourselves. We begin to see the “impressions” our mind has created. And at times, we manage to go deeper and further. Away from the senses and beyond. This state might only last a few seconds (if we are lucky!!!!). But as always, with practice, repetitive practice, it evolves.
Pratyahara in life’s becoming aware of the impressions we allow in. Many of us are conscious of the food we eat and consume. And yet not as mindful or discerning when it comes to the mental and emotional impressions. This is something worth considering.
Overtime we gain more understanding to just how much the senses control us and effect our wellbeing and develop the ability to choose differently.
To see the stimulation arising from the sight (I need this dress or cake or car) the smell, the touch, the taste or the sound, and to choose not to follow it. Not to spiral down with it. But rather to remain present. To create a new path. In body and mind and spirit.
There is a famous quote (I cannot remember who said it but one the older masters of yoga) where he day how much he loved going every Sunday to the market, only to see all the different things and products he didn’t need.
Seated forward bends are often the asanas we practice towards the end of the class and those who lead into shavasana.
They stretch not only the muscles and the physical body, but even more so they stretch the mind, the limiting beliefs we have been holding onto, the way in which we thought up to this moment in time, and the lens through which we chose to see life. And in the moment of acceptance, in the sacred space of balance between stretching and being, lies transformation. Pratyahara: withdrawal inwards, acceptance , and true knowledge
Jump to Inspiration of the month:
Pratyahara...the movement of the mind toward silence rather than toward things.
- Donna Farhi
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend- Upavistha Konasana
Upavistha Konasana is good preparation for most of the seated forward bends, twists, and the wide-leg standing poses. This pose is great for arthritis, sciatica and to detox the kidneys.
Stretches the insides and backs of the legs
Stimulates the abdominal organs
Strengthens the spine
Calms the brain
Contraindications for this pose:
Lower-back injury: Sit up high on a folded blanket and keep your torso relatively upright.
Beginners might not be able to bring the torso forward toward the floor. Take a bolster or a thickly rolled blanket and lay it on the floor in front of you, its long axis perpendicular to your pelvis. Exhale into the forward bend and lay your torso down on this support.
1. Sit in Dandasana, then lean your torso back slightly on your hands and lift and open your legs to an angle of about 90 degrees. Press your hands against the floor and slide your buttocks forward, widening the legs another 10 to 20 degrees. As with Dandasana, if you can’not sit comfortably on the floor, raise your buttocks on a folded blanket.
2. Rotate your thighs outwardly, pinning the outer thighs against the floor, so that the knee caps point straight up toward the ceiling. Reach out through your heels and stretch your soles, pressing though the balls of the feet.
3. With your thigh bones pressed heavily into the floor and your knee caps pointing up at the ceiling, walk your hands forward between your legs. Keep your arms long. As with all forward bends, the emphasis is on moving from the hip joints and maintaining the length of the front torso. As soon as you find yourself bending from the waist, stop, re-establish the length from the pubis to the navel, and continue forward if possible.
4. Increase the forward bend on each exhalation until you feel a comfortable stretch in the backs of your legs. Stay in the pose 1 minute or longer. Then come up on an inhalation with a long front torso.
Full Yogic Breath
Full Yogic Breath is a deeply balancing pranayama, sometimes known as three-part breath because it works with three different sections of the torso and naturally engages all three lobes of the lungs. Full Yogic Breath revitalizes the entire body with prana. In particular, it benefits the vital organs, which can easily become stagnant, constricted, or fraught with emotional and physical tension when we experience stress. Full Yogic Breath relieves stress, refreshes the mind, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, encouraging a calmer, more balanced state of being overall. It also helps to correct unhealthy breathing patterns.
Full Yogic Breath Instructions:
The guidance of a teacher is always recommended.
If you ever feel unwell or dizzy - stop the practice immediately.
These practices are to be done moderately and with much observation, as they are extremely powerful.
Choose a comfortable seated or lying position and relax the body fully.
Gently close your eyes and take a few moments to settle in. Close your mouth and breathe only through your nostrils. Quiet your mind, and attune to your body.
When you are ready, inhale slowly and with purpose, drawing your breath deep into the lower abdomen, starting from the pelvic floor and slowly allowing the breath to fill upward (toward the navel) and outward (away from the spine). Initially, focus only on filling the lower abdomen.
As the breath fills this area, allow it to expand outward in all directions—to the front (expanding the lower belly), to the sides (expanding the hips), and to the back (expanding the lumbar spine and the sacrum)—as it moves upward toward the navel.
Once the lower abdomen has filled completely, continue the inhalation by filling the mid-torso in a similar manner. Continue to draw the breath upwards, from the navel to the ribs, allowing the breath to gently expand the diaphragm, the ribs, and the mid-back as the breath continues to rise.
Once the mid-torso feels full, complete the inhalation by drawing the breath into the upper chest—allowing prana to rise up into the heart, the sternum, and finally into the shoulders and the base of the neck. Feel the collarbones lift slightly.
This completes the inhalation. Then, release the breath from the upper chest as the heart, lungs, sternum and shoulders all relax—dropping down and drawing in, toward the spine. Then, expel the breath from the mid-torso, feeling the ribs contract and the navel draw in, closer to the spine. And lastly, release the breath from the lower abdomen, feeling the belly contract and draw inward toward the spine.
This completes one round of Full Yogic Breath.
Benefits of Full Yogic Breath
Calms the mind and body, reducing stress and anxiety
Promotes full and complete breathing
Increases oxygen supply to the blood
Helps keep the lungs healthy
Releases muscular tension
Prepares for deeper meditation
Do not start a breathing practice if you experience asthma, shortness of breath, or have a heart condition.