This phrase is often associated with the image of three monkeys covering their eyes, ears, and mouth. Confucius, who is credited as the message’s originator, defined it as a warning to avoid all things evil or distracting that can hinder a person’s development.
Similarly, The Yoga Sutras, as organized by Patanjali, describe the fifth limb of its eight-limb system that is yoga. Through the sutras, we learn that pratyahara means to withdraw your senses. Like a turtle that retracts inside of its shell, pratyahara will teach you to go inside yourself and retreat from the external “noises” that exist around you: the opinions, the interruptions, the distractions, the associations, the influences. Once you detach from this commotion, you can be free to choose the sensations that you wish to introduce into your field of awareness.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I meditate for an hour each day”? You may think to yourself, “Wow! I wish I could do that!” or “Hmm, that sounds boring.” But you’re most likely thinking, “How can they do that?”
For the month of June, which is traditionally the month of love, we will get to the “heart” of what matters, our Self.
But first we need to open the door to receptivity.
To be receptive is to accept a signal, an idea or even another person into your life. For receptivity to occur, it is imperative that your heart and mind be open. This ability to see things differently requires flexibility. Not everyone is amenable or disposed to receiving what others have to share. Therefore, in order to fully receive, you may have to give up something that you already possess.
This is especially fitting for yogis who want to prepare and purify themselves to receive the teachings of yoga. Releasing your subjectivity, blockages and negativity will give you space for a lifestyle that is happier, healthier and compassionate or love-filled.
At this point in our Year of Living Yogically, we know that there is more to the system of yoga than the postures themselves. Time and again, the posts refer back to the Eight Limb System of yoga which includes:
Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
Maybe you have already incorporated some of these techniques into your own practice.
This week your challenge will be to review the eight steps and find the area(s) that you feel need enriching. Simply use the Topic bar on the right to click on the category you would like to read more about. Understanding each step in the eight-fold system will help you become more conscious of your true nature.
We have two weeks left in this journey. The next challenges will be the icing on the cake that will, hopefully, feed you for many years to come.
If you would like to start at the beginning of this year-long challenge please click here.
On this the new moon, I would like to introduce you to a process for going within, for moving from your outer world to your inner world.
It is the ultimate quieting technique called the Ritual of the Moon. And it goes hand in hand with our quest for clarity. This technique will release your mind and your body thoroughly so that you can move into the lunar world. Begin the process an hour or so before you would like to go to bed.
Ritual of the Moon
Sit somewhere quiet and reflect on your day. Rethink what has occurred and release any emotional tensions that may have been created. Apply wisdom and compassion as you see yourself as you truly are. Without harming thoughts, re-balance yourself.
Prepare your body for sleeping: take a bath, practice restorative yoga, listen to meditative music or just sit & breathe.
Fall asleep as slowly as possible. This sounds tricky, I know. But the idea is to maintain your self-awareness as you descend into sleep. This won’t happen if you stay up too late and fall into bed exhausted.
As you perform the ritual each night this week, journal your thoughts and feelings. You are learning to form a more meditative mind. One that will cultivate great self-awareness and much health and happiness.
I’ve tried the new moon tilted in the air Above a hazy tree-and-farmhouse cluster As you might try a jewel in your hair. I’ve tried it fine with little breadth of luster, Alone, or in one ornament combining With one first-water start almost shining.
I put it shining anywhere I please. By walking slowly on some evening later, I’ve pulled it from a crate of crooked trees, And brought it over glossy water, greater, And dropped it in, and seen the image wallow, The color run, all sorts of wonder follow.
I am a bit late for the Monday Yoga Challenge. After spending a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, I gave myself another week for recharging and reflection. We all need breaks from routine and time to contemplate on our direction.
So, this challenge is to focus on nothing…
…nothing but reflecting and restoring ourselves for the coming days when we will take on more commitments, more cooking, more cleaning, more talking, more staying up late, more drinking, more eating – you get the picture.
Take some time each day this week to relax and enjoy these set of restorative postures:
Tuesday: Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall) – belt your thighs together to really let go!
Wednesday: Cat/Cow & Child’s Pose – use your breath to guide you as you flow from Cat to Cow and then give yourself adequate support for maintaining a comfortable Child’s Pose.
Thursday: Do a Bed Stretch – alternate bringing your knees into your chest and slowly allow your breath to extend and awaken you.
Friday: Supine Stretching (you can use this as another Bed Stretch) – inhale as you lengthen your arms overhead/activate your legs then allow your exhalations to completely release the stretch (repeat).
Saturday: Find a quiet corner to sit and visualize your breath moving up and down your spine.
Sunday: Take a True Savasana – be warm and set your timer for 15 minutes, focusing on your breath.
And, finally, something to reflect on – the definition of Savasana as explained by B.K.S Iyengar:
“In the beginning, the ribs do not relax, the breath is rough and uneven, while the mind and intellect waver. Gradually, a student learns to still the body, the senses and the mind while keeping the intellect alert. When savasana is well performed the breath moves like a string holding the pearls of a necklace together. There is minimum wastage of energy and maximum recuperation. It refreshes the whole being, making one dynamic and creative. It creates fearlessness and serenity.”
Week #22 – amazing! I hope that you have benefited from a few of Yoga Posts’ Year of Living Yogically Challenges. We are nearly half way there.
Since we have been focusing on the chakra system for a few weeks now, I think it is important to step back a little and look at where we started – from the lower three chakras; the root, sacrum and solar plexus. These energy levels have one thing in common, they hold our perceptions and represent the way that we experience our lives. They give us the roots, the inspiration and the drive to ascend.
On week #19 we acknowledged the important anahata or heart chakra – our connection between the lower and upper chakras. This chakra generates the passion that can send us to new heights.
Now as we get ready to climb the chakra ladder to its highest rungs, there are a few preparations to take.
Understand the purpose of the upper three chakras.
The throat, the third eye and the crown chakra are the more esoteric centers. They create our spiritual essence – our expressions of what we are. They are not involved with material matters and only work with our deepest levels of expression.
Practice pratyahara or sense withdrawal.
This is the fifth limb of the yoga system. It means to withdrawal your senses. Like a turtle that retracts inside of its shell, your practice of pratyahara will teach you to go inside yourself and retreat from the external “noises” that exist around you: the opinions, the interruptions, the distractions, the associations, the influences. Once you can detach from this commotion, you can be free to choose the sensations that you wish to bring into your field of awareness. The practice of pratyahara will enable you to see things as they truly are as you ascend the chakra ladder.
Your challenge this week is to practice these techniques of pratyahara:
1.) Take a Media Fast. Spend some time each day away from sensory input. Turn off the t.v, the computer, the phone, put aside music and books. Sit quietly and allow your mind to rest for 30 minutes or so.
2. ) Take a Real Savasana. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Wrap a blanket around your head to form a nest so that the ends of the blanket cover your ears. Use a washcloth or an eyebag to cover your eyes.
After either technique, find one thing to focus on: the blue sky, the red rocks (only in Sedona, of course) or a field or garden of flowers if you have them. These simple and positive images will be a refreshing change for your mind.