Friday, May 31, 2013

Igniting the Creative Spark with Yoga: Pratyahara

how to teach yoga classes
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Yoga practices offer many different techniques for increasing our life force energy. An increase in the flow of energy or chi often generates creative ideas. The creative impetus springs from the movement of energy. Creativity can come in many forms, shapes, shades, and colors. A creative image can uplift us or sadden our hearts. Irregardless of the particular tone of the artistic work, it springs forth from the movement of energy and usually generates an emotional reaction in the person experiencing it.

If you feel stuck in the inertia of tamas and are unable to stoke the creative fire, practicing Yoga asanas and breathing exercises will help to dispel tamas, increase the flow of energy throughout your entire being and inspire you. Backbending Yoga asanas, Power Yoga flows and pranayama exercises, such as Skull Shining Breath, are great ways to release tension and increase the flow of creative ideas. The Yogic practice of the withdrawal of the senses, known in Sanskrit as pratyahara, is also another great way of igniting the creative spark.

The practice of pratyahara is the 5th stage of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga as elucidated in his famous Yoga Sutras. During the practice of pratyahara, the senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused internally; traditionally on an image of a God or Goddess, mantra, mandala, or the divine light within the heart. In addition, the practice of pratyahara is also a wonderful tool for generating and clarifying creative ideas. 

If you are struggling to come up with your next artistic endeavor, or you are finding it difficult to complete a current artistic undertaking, taking some time to withdraw your senses and focus internally on the project at hand can be quite helpful. Practicing pratyahara at the end of your Yoga practice will afford you the opportunity to settle quietly into the field of stillness generated by the Yoga asanas and breathing exercises. 

Traditionally, pratyahara entails withdrawing the senses of touch, taste, hearing, and vision from all external stimuli. This enables a Yogi or Yogini to calm the vrittis or thought waves in the mind, sink into inner stillness and eventually know God. Withdrawing the senses from all external input will allow your unique ideas and inspirations to arise unimpeded. 

* Pratyahara

To practice pratyahara, come to an easy sitting position on your Yoga mat. If you prefer, you may also practice pratyahara with your legs up the wall or in Shavasana. If you do choose to practice pratyahara in a prone position, using an eye pillow to eliminate visual stimuli and cool the eyes will help facilitate the withdrawal of the senses. You may wish to set a time for ten minutes, and then simple rest your mind. 

While practicing pratyahara, let go of all preconceived ideas, usual ways of doing things and other people’s advise about your creative project. Contemplating a few seminal questions about the project at hand, and then quietly listening for the answer to arise in your mind’s eye or the in the depth of your heart, will allow you to sink into the fertile void from which all creativity arises. Jotting down your ideas in a journal, before moving back into the rest of your day, will help you to remember the creative ideas that were generated by your practice of pratyahara.   

© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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