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

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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

Welcome the royal guest

Imagine you’re expecting a cherished guest – royalty perhaps or a much revered teacher – you would want to clean every corner. You would want to open all the windows, freshen and air all the spaces. And then you would want to stand open the gates and the doors and roll out the red carpet. This is exactly how it is with PRANA. The magic ingredient to yoga practice is PRANA, life-force, life-giving energy. The practice which actions the magic is PRANAYAMA.

We’ll begin this week’s practice with kapalabhati. Having cleansed our breathing apparatus and cleansed our skulls, we’ll move on to cleansing and unblocking all the joints of the body. Let’s work with Pawanmuktasana 1, which is the anti-rheumatic exercise. We move through all the joints of the body, methodically, working from the toes to the neck. Each movement is repeated 5 times.

Then we’ll work to cleanse our digestive system’s with Pawanmuktasana 2. This is the exercise where we work, methodically, through the entire digestive system. We’re preparing for the royal guest!

Before we move from lying on the mat, let’s practise the Eagle. We found last week that working with this quite challenging balance posture whilst safely lying had enormous benefits! We could really ‘feel’ the posture without anxiety about tumbling. That foot readily tucks behind the other calf whilst prone!

Now we’ll meet three movements from Pawanmuktasana 3. This is the energy-release group of movements. How cleansed and cleared do we feel? Can we go lightly into our challenge posture?

In meditation, we’ll visualise preparation for the royal guest. We’ll allow ourselves to understand the magic of PRANAYAMA in a deeper way. We will have the summer holidays for processing this essential part of yoga practice, and really understanding the PRANAYAMA techniques.

Relaxation is Surya Kriya. Let’s fill the energy reservoir in the solar plexus with wonderful PRANA. Surya means ‘sun’ and solar plexus means ‘the place of the sun’.

This is our last class of the summer term and this yoga year. It’s been a good one! We’ve looked, in depth, at Patanjali’s first 4 limbs. Have a great summer. I shall still post on the blog, and look forward very much to seeing you back on your mats on September 13th.

Meanwhile, only one week until the annual retreat! Yay! How I love reuniting with our larger yoga family…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

 

Pranic healing

All methods of healing are really indirect ways of awakening the life-energy (PRANA) within a dis-eased body.

We’re studying the fourth limb, pranayama. We’ll look at unblocking areas of the body¬† so that prana can flow through freely. To this end we’ll practise classical postures this week.

Let’s commence with the shoulderstand and the plough. We’ll follow these with the fish – such a great way to open the chest, the heart, and to improve the breathing.

Using the boat to move to sitting, we’ll work with a forward bend, backward bend, and then a wide-legged forward bend.

One of my all-time favourite poses is the camel. This is a classical posture which strengthens the back while increasing the suppleness of the spine. And what a chest-opener! The prana will be flowing freely around the chest cavity after this! We’ll start with the half-camel.

After resting in the variation of the swan, we’ll move through the dog to standing. Here we’ll prepare for the challenge posture – the eagle balance. Repetition of the same posture through the half-term allows us to gain a greater insight into its complexities. The eagle allows us to thoroughly unblock the pelvic region.

Cool-downs, then we’ll practise pranic healing during the meditation. Yogis who practise pranayama have access to a store of prana which they are able to use for self-healing or healing others.

Relaxation involves breathing in a golden yellow light through the nostrils, breathing out a silvery blue light through the nostrils.

Next week is our last week of this yoga year. So, last class is July 19th, and we return for a 12 week term on September 13th. I’m so looking forward to reuniting with our wider yoga family at the annual retreat!

Keep healing…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

The five life-forces of the body

We’re taking a close look at pranayama. The movements of PRANA are not only those which enter the body through the vehicle of the breath. There are movements of PRANA also within one’s own body. These pranas are called VAYUS (vital airs); they are the intelligent life-forces which are manifested in the astral body and function through the five subsidiary nerve centres in the brain and spinal cord.

We’ll begin our class this week with some bridges. These are great for connecting mind, body and breath. Then on to some twists which are so excellent for stimulating the wheels of energy.

Now we’ll move to seated through the boat posture and continue with butterfly knees. Let’s try the balance known as merudandasana – that’s always fun! And we’ll work with tortoise. It’s a wonderful forward bend.

Progressing on to seated twists we’ll take care to twist from the base of the spine. Don’t let the head get bossy and lead this movement!

Now to standing. Every half-term we choose a ‘challenge posture’. At the moment it’s the eagle, which is a most interesting balance. Are we improving? Repetition allows you to really get to know a pose…

Let’s finish our standing work with the salute to the moon, and then return to the mat for the cool-downs and meditation.

For meditation we’re going to imagine that we have a large crystal deep within us. As we breathe in, the crystal grows larger and brighter. as we breathe out, we melt into sapphire blue.

Relaxation works with the subtle energy – ANU LOMA VILOMA KRIYA.

Our last class of this term is July 19th.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Here comes the sun…

We can’t study pranayama, the fourth of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs, without mentioning solar prana. And, right on cue, the sun’s shining gloriously!

We’ll start this week with the sun breath adding ujjayi. Then we’ll embrace three salutes to the sun. Now, thoroughly warmed up, we’ll work with forward bend, and forward bend with the shoulders rotated. These two postures are great for releasing blockages to allow prana to flow through readily.

Supported backward bend now, followed by twists. Now let’s attempt a wide-legged forward bend…shall we get the crown to the mat this week?!

Our challenge pose is the eagle balance. Tucking the foot around the front and behind, and remembering to balance on a bent knee is the key to mastery.

Let’s return to the mat through the squat, and complete our asana work with the mermaid.

Alternate nostril breathing will prepare us for meditation which is a visualisation. We’ll take ourselves off on to a beautiful, peaceful beach, and we’ll combine our breath with the waves. Let’s absorb the gorgeous solar prana!

Relaxation is, of course, surya kriya. This will complete our sunny journey.

Be happy. Put sunshine out into the world…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti

Breath is life

In many languages, the word for breath is the same as the word for life.

We’re studying pranayama. Amongst other routes, we gather prana from the air that we breathe. This is the reason that pollution must be addressed, urgently, right now.

This week we’ll begin our practice with the bridge posture. We’ll use sama vritti pranayama as we work with the bridges – breathing in for four as we make a bridge shape, hold the breath for four as we hold the bridge, breathing out for four as we lower back to the mat, holding the breath out for four as we rest.

We’ll then follow the same procedure with the nose to knee poses. This will take concentration as here we’ll breath in on the mat, breathe out as we raise the nose to the knee, hold the breath out as we hold the nose on the knee, breathe in as we return to the mat, and so on.

Let’s now try this in the twist posture.

Coming to sitting through the boat, we’ll move on to the cat stretch and breath. We’ll employ sama vritti pranayama here, too. After a rest in the swan, we’ll take this same focus into swan – cat – dog sequence.

Now on to the gate sequence, where we’ll introduce a different breathing exercise – ujjayi, the victorious breath.

Coming to standing pose, tadasana, let’s work on our challenge posture, the eagle.

Then back down through the squat for another pranayama technique. I love brahmari, the bee breath! Let’s see how we can fill the room with the wonderful sound of humming…

We’ll begin our meditation with the square breath which we’ve been practising – sama vritti pranayama. But then allow it to take us deep within. We’ll find our quiet centre, our true selves.

Relaxation repeats our energy work. We rebalance our energies with anu loma viloma kriya.

Healing the damage that we’ve done to our planet is essential for our own welfare, and the welfare of all the animals and creatures that share our planet with us. Running out of clean air means running out of clean prana…

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti