The five senses

The five components of creation – ether, air, fire, water and earth – have given us our five senses: hearing, feeling, sight, taste and smell. We’re considering ways that yoga aids us to withdraw from the senses and establish inner focus. This process is called pratyahara.

We’ll begin with the bridge movements. Let’s close our eyes and really focus on the breath moving the body.

After resting in the pose of a goddess, we’ll work with gentle spinal twists. Now we’ll rest in the little bear.

The shoulderstand allows us to look at the world from a different angle, and the plough posture allows us to engage the chin lock.

We’ve been working with TRE – the tension and trauma release exercise. We’ll meet it again here. Gradually you’ll become more accustomed to the feeling of the legs shaking of their own volition. It’s the same idea as the body shivering on a really cold day! This happens without instruction from the mind…

Let’s now practise the fish pose, before using the boat to come to sitting. The tortoise posture waits for us here, followed by a powerful backward stretch – purvottonasana.

Our little balance to complete our asana work is the cosmic egg. After cool-downs, we’ll sit for meditation.

Working on the right hand we’ll touch the thumb to each finger in turn, beginning with the index finger. We’ll silently repeat the sounds SA/TA/NA/MA. This practise is so efficient at taking us directly into the state of pratyahara.

For relaxation we’ll focus on the breath – breathe in and out for the count of four, then repeat for five, repeat for six, seven and eight. Then resume normal breathing, and sink into a deep, restful relaxation – a holiday for the senses and the nervous system.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

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More on pratyahara

Pratyahara is a state in which attention does not externalise itself.

This week we’ll begin on our backs with the leg movements from pawanmuktasana 2. Then we’ll meet again TRE, the tension and trauma release exercise. This will feel more natural the more often we work with it.

Coming to sitting through the boat, we’ll work with janu-sirsasana, (forward bends.)

Now on to backward bends in the form of half-camel and full camel. Rest in between in the variation on the swan. Love that counterpose! And now a twist – the mermaid.

We’ll consider carefully the idea of withdrawing attention inwards as we work with the cat stretch and breath. Then pass through the dog pose to standing.

Another great opportunity arises for pratyahara as we concentrate on the tree of life breath.

Meditation is working with SA – TA – NA – MA on the fingers of the right hand. I have found this practice to be incredibly efficient at taking the attention within. All external distractions completely disappear.

Relaxation focuses on the breath like last week.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Pratyahara – the 5th of the Eight Limbs

Yay! Back to the autumn term of yoga classes and yoga philosophy. We’re going to begin with an in-depth look at the 5th of the Eight Limbs. This is called Pratyahara and is sense-withdrawal.

Enjoy lying down on your mat. Take time to ease yourself in good alignment. Feel the parts of the body touching the ground…now focus on your abdomen. As you breathe in the abdomen rises, as you breathe out the abdomen falls. Now focus on your ribs. As you breathe in the ribs widen, separate, part and fill, as you breathe out the ribs come back together and empty. Now focus on the upper chest. As you breathe in the chest rises and the upper lobes of the lungs fill. As you breathe out the chest falls. Continue working with the complete yoga breath (mahat pranayama) for several minutes.

Now we move to stretches and warm-ups. Let’s be aware of each movement and be truly present.

The bridge pose is our first asana. Use your breath to lift the body, and enjoy the sensation of lifting away from the mat, and then returning to the mat.

We’ll follow this with some gentle nose-to-knee movements, and then it’s on to gentle twists. It’s our first week back – let’s be kind and attentive to the body…

Here we’ll meet something new. I learnt this about 20 years ago but it’s becoming very popular at the moment. It’s a way of enabling the legs to release tension and trauma.  Bring the feet into prayer position and raise the legs a little of the ground. Now allow the legs to shake of their own volition. It’s a strange feeling at first, but just go with it! You’ll feel wonderfully relaxed and refreshed later. (The height you need to lift the legs from the floor differs from person to person.)

Now up through the boat and into a forward bend before a wonderful backward stretch. Let’s meet all the seated twists, and finish with a balance – the cosmic egg.

Meditation allows us to explore the idea of pratyahara. Firstly, we close our eyes and remove the sense of sight. Now, we focus on the feeling of the fingers and thumbs connecting together. We withdraw from the feeling of touch. We then become aware of the taste in our mouths and, consciously withdraw from the sense of taste. Similarly with the smell in the nose. Lastly, we listen to the sounds far away, the sounds closer, the sound of our own breathing, and then we withdraw from the sense of hearing altogether. We turn inwards and find the quietness of the mind.

Relaxation is a breathing technique designed to give the whole body, the nervous system, the whole being, a holiday.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti