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.
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.
Yoga in Berlin can come in all sh
apes and sizes. Everything from the truly devout practices to the trendy, cult-like fashion of yoga- there are many styles and many different kinds of people practicing. Because there are so many people from all over the world who currently find this amazing city to be their home, we specialize in teaching Yoga in English. And because we believe that it can actually change lives, we teach the practices of Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga.
Although the classes are in English, sometimes I use Sanskrit words in our Berlin Yoga classes when wanting to describe a pose or the reason behind something we are supposed to do. As a consequence I often see confused faces looking up at me. I think many yoga teachers take their students understanding of these terms for granted and just keep going. But in an effort to be very clear and to make understanding of why we do things as simple as possible, last week I started something I call Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday. Each week we will be posting info about a term to help increase depth of understanding within your practice.
This week’s word is the basis for Hatha Yoga:
– literally means posture in Sanskrit. All the yoga postures we do in class are asanas. A specific asana has a name describing the posture and then the word asana at the end of it. For example take Matsyasana, Matsya literally means fish and asana posture- in plain English- it’s the fish pose.
As a teacher of Hatha Yoga in Berlin, I often use Sanskrit words in our classes when wanting to describe a pose or the reason behind something we are supposed to do. I try to always accompany these words with a translation, but every now and then I still see confused faces looking up at me. I realize that sometimes, especially when teaching yoga in English, it is important to not only describe the action in Sanskrit but to also offer a translation in plain English.
No matter how long you have taken yoga classes or how deep you are in your own personal practice, it’s important to understand the words being used over and over again. In an effort to explain the terms that many Berlin Yoga teachers (myself included) often take for granted that their students already understand, I am starting something I call Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday. Each week we will be posting info about a term to help increase depth of understanding within your practice.
Perhaps the beginning is the best place to start….
Yoga: yolk (as in the yolk of an egg.)
The yolk of an egg has the capacity to bind ingredients together. Yoga also strives to bind or unite the three aspects of the self: the body, the mind and the soul. Over the centuries, it has become common for people to also translate the word yoga as “union”. And since the practice of Yoga affects people in so many different ways, the definitions of Yoga seem to be multiplying as yoga spreads throughout the world.