Sunday, November 14, 2010

Practicing Pratyahara

Every since I started teaching yoga I have begun each class with three aums and the Invocation to Patanjali. The invocation is intended to invoke the presence of Patanjali, the Indian deity who codified the writings and teachings of yoga. In classes I take with my teachers, the aums and invocation help me to become centered and to clear my mind so I can be present for yoga, so I assumed that it would have the same effect on all students. I have been teaching since 1999 and have recently decided to stop chanting the invocation and just begin all of my classes with three aums. I stopped the chant because any students find the chant to be in direct conflict with their spiritual practice, and I honor their feelings. 

So, I decided one of my lessons for that day was Pratyahara.  

Statue of Patanjali
Pratyhara means drawing back or retreat. The word ahara means "nourishment"; pratyahara translates as "to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses." In yoga, the term pratyahara implies withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects. It can then be seen as the practice of non-attachment to sensorial distractions as we constantly return to the path of self realization and achievement of internal peace. It means our senses stop living off the things that stimulate; the senses no longer depend on these stimulants and are not fed by them any more. 

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