Pratyahara: withdrawl of the senses
Pratyahara: withdrawl of the senses
In this hectic world of ours we often suffer from overstimulation. Too many headlines, deadlines, voices in our lives and in our heads. There are things all around us that of course, deserve our attention. And so we organize our time and our minds to accommodate the overload- to do the best that we can in a world that just keeps on bringing new things to us, to worry about, work through, discover.
One of the best uses of practicing yoga is to find appropriate detachment from the world around us. Not to a point where we no longer know what is going on but to a point where we can selectively withdrawal from the overload our senses have to offer when it becomes vital for our benefit or even survival.
That leads us to a fine question for this Tuesday, what is Pratyahara?
Pratyahara- means the withdrawal of senses. This is one of the eight steps of Raja Yoga and in our English Yoga in Berlin classes gets practiced through Yoga Nidra (yoga of conscious deep sleep), Pranayama (the breathing techniques), Tratak (candle flame gazing) and concentration on the eyebrow center. Pratyahara teaches us appropriate detachment which is necessary in order to attain inner peace through Raja Yoga. The word pratyahara comes from prati and ahara. Ahara means “food” or anything that we take into our body. Prati is a preposition that means “away”or “against”. Together it means turning away from external stimuli, and thus the withdrawal of senses.
photo from Fern http://flickeflu.com/photos/36576881@N05
I had a student the other day sustain a painful injury by doing nothing. She had been having slight lower back pain for a few days and then one morning she woke up to find that she was unable to use her left leg without excruciating pain. A 33 year old woman in good overall health, there were no previous major injuries to justify this event and she hadn’t done anything recently to cause major strain other than the common psychological stresses of life. She expressed surprise, helplessness and frustration when several doctors could not find the cause. Finally a holistic chiropractic therapist figured out what was wrong and she started to improve.
The therapist suggested that my student stop doing yoga for a while, saying that it may be too strenuous for her pending recovery. But the student told me she explained that this version of yoga, Hatha Yoga, was actually very gentle and that the class was a very supportive environment for healing of all kinds. As she explained this to me she told me that she had tried many types of Yoga in her hometown of Los Angeles and that for the most part it was a flexibility contest- the winner of which inevitably wore the most trendy yoga fashion and excelled at head stands. She said that as a result of yoga in Berlin she understood that this practice wasn’t about abusing the body into meaningless contortions but more about making peace with the body and appreciating what it can do.
In some cultures “no pain, no gain” is a widespread fitness philosophy. But in many cases it gets us into the wrong frame of mind when it comes to our relationship with our bodies. The idea that if it doesn’t hurt a little you aren’t doing anything good for yourself is not only untrue but can really injure both your body and mind in the long run. It can spill into all parts of life, relationships, work etc., creating obvious dysfunction as we associate pain with something positive.
Now don’t get me wrong, growth does hurt and often we have to push past our comfort zones in order to make real progress in our development as humans. But perhaps the key is knowing yourself first- making peace with your body, mind and soul and then becoming more discerning about what kind of pain is good. The body is an amazing thing that facilitates so much for our minds and our souls and its function should never be taken for granted. What have you done lately to celebrate it?
The end of the summer will bring big changes and we are starting to get excited! Starting on Sept 18th
English Yoga Berlin will be moving to a new location and class schedule.
When: Tuesday and Thursday
Where: Görlitzerstr 39 (just a few blocks away from our current location.)
In an effort to get as much of the administration out of the way before our summer pause, we´ve decided to offer an early registration discount for everyone!
Autumn Yoga Discount Package
What: Sept 18-end of Oct (7 weeks of classes)
How Much: €50 (1x/week) or €90 (2x/week)
Deadline: Aug 10th
If you pay for your autumn yoga classes by August 10th, we´re offering a 10 % discount for September and October. After August 10th, prices will go back to normal.
To take advantage of this special:
2) Once you have selected your classes, please contact us to arrange payment.
Meg and Pinelopi
English Yoga Berlin is very excited to be offering this new English yoga class on the beautiful hill of Berlin “Schöneberg”. Starting on September 17th, we will be teaching at the center of Yogah-Berlin located at Motzstrasse 64, 10777 Berlin-Schöneberg.
English Yoga in Schöneberg – Every Monday:
19.45-21.00 Hatha Yoga in English with Pinelopi
We will be offering a free yoga class on September 17th so that anyone who wishes can try out! Send us an email to sign up for the free class.
As yoga becomes part of our daily lives, so do the most commonly used yoga words begin to enter our every day vocabulary. I find it beautiful when different languages merge, overlap, get reclaimed and used by people of all cultures. In these globalized times, English is no longer a language just for the English speaking nations, but it is the language that most peoples of the world use to communicate with one another, the language that makes it possible for people of totally different cultures and realities to meet, to communicate, and to fascinate each other.
In my Hatha Yoga classes in Berlin I choose to teach yoga in English. I love to see people from different corners of the world come to our Berlin yoga studio to practice yoga together. I use a lot of Sanskrit yoga words accompanied by an English translation while I teach. Sometimes though, because of Sanskrit having such a different pronounciation to English, yoga students don’t always learn the words correctly or their meaning. That is why I started Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday, a blog where I explain the basic words used during the yoga class.
This week’s words are Anuloma Viloma.
Anuloma Viloma – is also a form of Pranayama or breathing technique. Anuloma literally means “in a natural order or direction” and viloma means “produced in reverse order”. The Anuloma Viloma breath requires one to breathe in through the left nostril and breathe out through the right, and then to reverse that process, breathe in through the right and exhale through the left. The natural way to breathe for a healthy person who practices Pranayama changes every 1 hour and 50 minutes. There is always one nostril that is predominant and can breathe easier then the other, and after that time-frame the predominant nostril changes. By practicing Anuloma Viloma we are balancing out that effect.
photo by Fern “Language can be a gate from which to liberate your thoughts and ideas”
When most people think of yoga in Berlin, they probably conjure up an image of a body contorted into wildly flexible shapes, or perhaps a solitary figure meditating. They might associate the practice of yoga with chanting, or maybe with the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl. But rarely do people consider language as a part of the practice–and almost never do they associate yoga with jokes, stories or slang. Perhaps this is because of our cultural heritage in the West around spiritual practices. We expect them to occur in a sacred domain, and we can’t imagine something as everyday as language being involved. There is definitely a time and a place for silence, but I feel, actually, that language is an incredibly powerful and important tool, in yoga and everywhere else in life, too! Teaching yoga in English has taught me a lot about cultural translation–certain concepts, which have a lot of different layers of meaning in Sanskrit, have been ‘shorthanded’ into English and lost much of their content. The clearest example of this is the word ‘Karma’. English just doesn’t have the depth and breadth and subtlety of Sanskrit when it comes to discussing states of consciousness (though, to give credit where credit’s due, it’s a great language to talk about getting drunk in–so many adjectives!). This presents a very difficult challenge: how do you translate yoga ideas and yoga techniques from one language/culture to another?
It gets even more complicated in our yoga lessons, because we teach Vinyasa Yoga and Hatha yoga in English in Berlin, therefore often teaching yoga to non-Native English speakers. Thankfully, yoga concepts are often extremely simple. Not easy, but simple. This is where jokes, stories and slang come in–they make people feel comfortable, and comfort is half the battle when you’re trying to learn something new. They also make it a lot more difficult to take yourself too seriously! I really feel that accessible language is incredibly important in a practice like yoga.
- 16.00 – 17.30 Vinyasa Flow in English with Meg
- 18.00 – 19-30 Hatha Yoga in English with Pinelopi
- 20.00 – 21.30 Yoga Nidra in English with Pinelopi
- 8.30 – 9.45 Vinyasa Flow in English with Meg
- 10.15 – 11.45 Hatha Yoga in English with Pinelopi
- 12.15 – 13.45 Advanced Hatha yoga with Pinelopi
- 16.00 – 17.30 Vinyasa Flow in English with Meg
- 18.00 – 19.30 Hatha Yoga in English with Pinelopi
- 20.00 – 21.30 Hatha Yoga in English with Pinelopi
All classes will take place in the Gemeinschaftsraum(x-kinderkino) on Görlitzerstr. 39, 10997 Kreuzberg Berlin
Click here to sign up for Yoga in Kreuzberg classes : http://www.doodle.com/wxe8a87p6qsyz7vk
As a Hatha Yoga instructor in Berlin, I often use Sanskrit words during my yoga classes. Sometimes I even like to take a pause after the sanskrit yoga word, and see if the older students know what I am talking about or if they are just waiting for the English translation.
In order to learn about yoga properly I find it important to aknowledge its roots in the Indian culture and the Sanskrit language. Taking the time to understand these words and their meanings makes your yoga practice a more complete experience and adds to the understanding of yoga and it’s origins. That is why I started Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday, a post where I explain the basic sankrit words used in my yoga classes. So in this blog I would like to explain the meaning of the word kapalabhati, a breathing technique we often use in the yoga class.
Kapalabhati – is a form of Pranayama, or breathing technique. Kapala means “skull” and bhati means “shiny” or “illuminated”. So Kapalabhati means “shiny skull”. It is a breathing technique we use to increase our Prana and clean out the air passageways before doing more advanced pranayama.
photo by Fern
People still look confused in class sometimes when I use yoga terminology. That’s why I started English Yoga terminology Tuesday. I guess I could always just use plain English in order to avoid these confusing moments, but as a person who enjoys looking up the etymology of words, how their meanings have evolved from what their original meanings were, and how words between different languages overlap- I would find it a shame not to introduce one of the oldest languages in the world in our classes (Sanskrit). So in this blog I would like to try and explain the meaning of one of the most common words used in my Berlin yoga classes. What is Pranayama?
Pranayama – Prana means vital energy. People often confuse vital energy to mean spirit, or soul, or just the energy within a specific person. That is not the case. Vital energy is the energy you find in all living things. It’s the energy that gives life. This is found in humans, animals, plants, and some people even believe it’s found in stones. Everyone and everything alive has prana. Yama means “control”. So pranayama is the “control of vital energy”. In yoga we learn how to control and manage our energy through breathing. So Pranayama is a series of breathing techniques that we practice in order to learn how to control, manage, direct or increase our vital energy.
Many people wonder, “Why should I do yoga?” And while this is an individual question, I think it’s important to understand what the point of the practice is before deciding to make it a part of your life.
In my last blog about Hatha yoga in Berlin, I talked a bit about the current “trendy nature” of yoga and why there seem to be so many yoga styles on offer. But the true goal of Yoga is to bring the practitioner into a state of perfect peace with themself and with the world. This cannot be achieved overnight. And so, to approach this goal, one spends a lifetime practicing this discipline. Although perfect peace is the most difficult state to attain, it is said that everyone can approach it through a sincere practice of yoga.
As mentioned in my previous blog, originally there were four different types of yoga created. These different types were created so that people were able to practice the kind of yoga that best fits them as an individual. The four original yogas are: Njana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga.
The Njana yoga practitioners use the intellect to attain a state of inner peace. Their whole practice is about analyzing the world around them, and distinguishing what is real from illusion. This yoga is the best kind for people who have a need to intellectualize everything about the world.
The Karma Yoga practitioners strive to attain the inner peace state through action (Karma being the Sanskrit word for “action” or “to do”). Their practice is based on taking positive action without being attached to the fruits of one’s deeds. This kind of yoga is best for those who need to live an active life and keep themselves constantly busy.
The Bhakti Yoga practitioners use their emotions in order to attain their yogic goal. Bhakti is the yoga of devotion. This kind of yoga is said to be the best for people who are of an emotional nature and need to sublimate their emotions in order to attain inner peace. This yoga would concentrate on rituals, symbols, chanting. It is said that by doing so the practitioners channel their emotions to a higher state of being.
Raja yoga practitioners try to attain peace through meditation. But in order to sit down and meditate one must not only learn how to control the mental fluctuations but also to have a fit body that can manage to sit motionless with no pain for an hour. To be able to do the latter Hatha Yoga was created. This is the only type of yoga from the original ones that focuses on the physical body. I teach this kind of yoga because it addresses the body, mind and energy levels of the practitioner throughout his/her self-exploration towards inner peace.