Friday, September 02, 2016

Nurturing Independence with Yoga: Pratyahara

pratyahara
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Dependency on external stimuli and substances can lead even the most avid Yoga practitioner to a state of despondency when the distracting substance or stimuli is not available. Of course, many practitioners are familiar with the negative consequences of being addicted to mood altering drugs. However, many Yoga teachers and students may not be aware of the depth and pervasiveness of their own psychological dependency on subtle mental thinking patterns and external sensory stimulation.

Patanjali, who wrote one of the most well-known texts on the practice of Yoga in the second century known as the Yoga Sutras, espouses the benefit of the withdrawal of the senses from all external stimulation. When the thought waves of the mind quiet and the senses come to rest in the clear light of bliss within the cave of the heart, it is far easier to know God. In terms of a Yoga practice, becoming proficient at the withdrawal of the senses or pratyahara, is one of the primary steps toward mystical absorption in God or Samadhi. This state of oneness with the Divine is ultimately the goal of all Yoga practices. 

On a less lofty note, incorporating pratyahara into your practice will help you to create a sense of mental and emotional independence from external substances, sources of stimulation, and even other people. This sense of internal freedom and independence will help you to choose nurturing activities, healthy food and even the company you keep. There are many ways to incorporate the practice of the withdrawal of the senses into your personal Yoga session or class. 




One of the primary ways of practicing pratyahara during a Yoga class is by focusing on your breath while you flow through the physical postures. Ujjayi Pranayama, or the Ocean Sounding Breath, is a very effective way of grounding your attention on your breath and focusing your attention on the practice of the postures. One Yoga teacher referred to the practice of Ujjayi Pranayama during a series of Ashtanga Yoga poses as a string of pearls upon which to thread the mind. 

Another very accessible way of centering your attention on your Yoga practice and pulling your thoughts away from internal distractions and external stimulation, is by practicing restorative postures with bolsters and eye bags. A few examples of some poses that easily and organically facilitate the practice of pratyahara are Restorative Legs Up the Wall Pose and Supported Seated Forward Fold. These postures are also quite relaxing and rejuvenating. 

* Restorative Legs Up the Wall Pose

Restorative Legs Up the Wall Pose is usually practiced towards the end of a Yoga class. It is a gentle, but powerful inversion that is accessible to most students. To practice Restorative Legs Up the Wall Pose, find a free wall space in the your home or studio. Place your mat perpendicular to the wall. For a deep sense of comfort, you may wish to use a bolster, blanket and an aromatherapy eye pillow. If you are using these Yoga props, place them near your mat. 

When you are ready to practice Restorative Legs Up the Wall Pose, gently lie on your mat with your right buttock touching the wall. Swing your legs up and rest them against the wall with your ankles touching. If you are using a Yoga Bolster, place it underneath your hips at this time. If you are using a blanket and an eye pillow, place the blanket over your torso and the aromatherapy eye pillow on your eyes.  Rest in Restorative Legs Up the Wall Pose for five to ten minutes. 


If you mind wanders, gently guide your internal gaze back to your Ajna Chakra, which is located at the point between your eyebrows. Rest your mind in the spaciousness of your own internal being. When you have completed your practice of the posture, remove any props that you are using and place them to the side of your mat. With an exhale, swing your legs down and rest on your right side for several breaths. When you are ready, come back to a comfortable seated position on your Yoga mat and feel the rejuvenating effects of Restorative Legs Up the Wall Pose.


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1 comment:

Rathore Ramkishore On WikiAnswers said...

A very effective way of doing Viparita karni. Many thanks for sharing this information.