100 Days of Yoga, Day 17

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September 7, 2012 by blogmasterjdeam

Dear All, Today I need to really, really focus on one topic: COMPASSION.

It is a topic near and dear to me because I am very much in need of it.  I want desperately to get to the place of being in a state of compassion all the time.  As we’ve discussed: what we feed grows.  Today I am going to do an all out, full speed, give-it-everything-I’ve-got, run at compassion.

I have asked myself what the components are that keep me from this goal.  They are so numerous, I hardly know where to begin.  But begin I must, so here goes: being judgmental; being negative; being cynical; being mean-spirited; being angry; being vengeful; being petty; wait … these are just the things I do to myself!

Here is something I’ve told you before, but when it comes to COMPASSION, it applies even more:  We can’t give what we dont’ have.  If we don’t have compassion for ourselves, there is nothing to give anyone else.  So what exactly is it we end up giving in place of compassion?

COMPASSION IS THE FIRST YAMA FOR A REASON: IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT.

As I hold myself in compassion in this moment (and this, and this,)  I also wish to hold all of you in compassion.  I want you to have compassion for yourselves first so that you can have compassion for someone else and, perhaps someday, every living being.

Today I offer another definition of Pratyahara:

Yoga is a vast system of spiritual practices for inner growth. To this end, the classical yoga system incorporates eight limbs, each with its own place and function. Of these, pratyahara is probably the least known. How many people, even yoga teachers, can define pratyahara? Have you ever taken a class in pratyahara? Have you ever seen a book on pratyahara? Can you think of several important pratyahara techniques? Do you perform pratyahara as part of your yogic practices? Yet unless we understand pratyahara, we are missing an integral aspect of yoga without which the system cannot work.

As the fifth of the eight limbs, pratyahara occupies a central place. Some yogis include it among the outer aspects of yoga, others with the inner aspects. Both classifications are correct, for pratyahara is the key between the outer and inner aspects of yoga; it shows us how to move from one to the other.

It is not possible to move directly from asana to meditation. This requires jumping from the body to the mind, forgetting what lies between. To make this transition, the breath and senses, which link the body and mind, must be brought under control and developed properly. This is where pranayama and pratyahara come in. With pranayama we control our vital energies and impulses and with pratyahara we gain mastery over the unruly senses — both prerequisites to successful meditation.

What is Pratyahara?

The term pratyahara is composed of two Sanskrit words, prati and ahara. Ahara means “food,” or “anything we take into ourselves from the outside.” Prati is a preposition meaning “against” or “away.” Pratyahara means literally “control of ahara,” or “gaining mastery over external influences.” It is compared to a turtle withdrawing its limbs into its shell — the turtle’s shell is the mind and the senses are the limbs. The term is usually translated as “withdrawal from the senses,” but much more is implied.

In yogic thought there are three levels of ahara, or food. The first is physical food that brings in the five elements necessary to nourish the body. The second is impressions, which bring in the subtle substances necessary to nourish the mind — the sensations of sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell. The third level of ahara is our associations, the people we hold at heart level who serve to nourish the soul and affect us with the gunas of sattva, rajas, and tamas.

Pratyahara is twofold. It involves withdrawal from wrong food, wrong impressions and wrong associations, while simultaneously opening up to right food, right impressions and right associations. We cannot control our mental impressions without right diet and right relationship, but pratyahara’s primary importance lies in control of sensory impressions which frees the mind to move within.

By withdrawing our awareness from negative impressions, pratyahara strengthens the mind’s powers of immunity. Just as a healthy body can resists toxins and pathogens, a healthy mind can ward off the negative sensory influences around it. If you are easily disturbed by the noise and turmoil of the environment around you, practice pratyahara. Without it, you will not be able to meditate.

There are four main forms of pratyahara: indriya-pratyahara — control of the senses; prana- pratyahara — control of prana; karma-pratyahara — control of action; and mano-pratyahara — withdrawal of mind from the senses. Each has its special methods. ~ DAVID FRAWLEY

PRANAYAMA:  Today I will do the simple Zen practice of watching my breath.  I will pay attention to how it moves through my body and I will hold my body in tender loving kindness as I do so.

ASANA:

20 minutes of VERY SLOW Sun Salutations — holding each pose for at least thirty seconds.  Because it is a running day I will focus on high lunges, really stretching the calf and hamstring muscles.  In addition, I will do some reclined strap to foot stretches for my piriformis muscle.  One of the things I’ve found as a runner is that when my knees hurt it is because this particular muscle has gotten too tight.  (As an aside, I also use a foam roller to work out the tightness.)  Next I will do a reclined twist.  For me, twists are essential as they help release any tension I may be holding in my body.  And finally I will end in Sivasana.

Thank you again for joining me on this adventure.  I hope it is of benefit to you.

YOURS IN COMPASSION, Chris

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