Terre Pruitt's Blog

In the realm of health, wellness, fitness, and the like, or whatever inspires me.

  • I teach Nia, yoga and stretch!

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    Yin Yoga: Mons at 11:30 am

    Gentle Yoga: Tues at 10:30 am and Thurs at 6:00 pm

    Stretch: Thurs at 10:30 am

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Posts Tagged ‘B.K.S Iyengar’

Withdrawal Of The Senses – WHAT?

Posted by terrepruitt on October 19, 2016

In January I started writing about the Eight Limbs of Yoga with a post called More To Yoga Than Just Asana.  They are 1-The yamas, 2-The niyamas, 3-The asana, 4- Pranayama, 5-Pratyahara, 6-Dharana, 7-Dhyana, and 8-Samadhi.  I finished posting briefly about the niyamas in April.  So it has been six months since I visited any of the limbs on my blog.  I thought I would pick up with the fifth limb – pratyahara and share a what I understand about it.  As I have said before, all the limbs and their smaller branches (like the yamas and the niyamas) can (and do) have volumes written about them.  I am only scratching the surface AND only exposing what I understand them to be at this time.  Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses.

That is what I have heard it described as.  I never really understood or agreed with the “withdrawal of the senses”.  The initial “scratch on the surface” was not enough for me to get on board with this limb.  As I looked briefly into the meaning or the idea, I think I understand it a bit more.  Now I can totally relate.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, Nia Technique, SJ City Fit, SJCityFitThe books I used to help me put it in perspective and allow me to understand it in a way to actually apply it are B.K.S. Iyengar’s The Path To Holistic Health, T.K.V. Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga and B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light On Pranayama.

In The Path To Holistic Health B.K.S. Iyengar said, “When the senses withdraw from objects of desire, the mind is released from the power of the senses, which in turn become passive.  Then the mind turns inward and is set free from the tyranny of the senses.  This is pratyahara.”  Ok, I feel that put me on the path to understanding.  Him saying “withdraw from objects of desire,” made me think, “Ok, we are not just shutting off our senses.”  I made me think that it is more of a form of concentration than a form of torture.

Then in The Heart of Yoga, I understand T.K.V. Desikachar’s to be saying that we might sense things but we ignore them, but we don’t really do it necessarily as a conscious practice, but because we are in the moment.  We are attuned to what we are doing.  We are focused. To me his explanation made a lot of sense because he was saying that our senses are not entirely withdrawn and shut off . . . we are just focused.  As an example, in an asana practice we are going to be aware of our body and sensing where our arms are in relation to our hips, but we are not going to be thinking about how we need to apply lotion to our arms or how our hips sway when we do the latest dance move.  While lotion and dance moves might not be examples of “objects of desire” they are examples of thoughts that distract us from the asana practice.

It also sounded to me like T.K.V. Desikachar was saying that we can – and more than likely have experienced Pratyahara before.  It could be when we are so focused on something we don’t realize what is going on around us.  Perhaps on the phone and not noticing someone is trying to get our attention.  Perhaps we turn everything out when focused on a task such as cooking, knitting, sewing, writing, drawing, etc.  Where the senses are withdrawn because the focus and concentration is so intense.  This goes along with T.K.V. Desikachar saying that pratyahara comes naturally.

I’m thinking that not having it be a conscious practice might depend on what you are doing.  I could be at first we might have to really focus on concentrating, but eventually it will just become a part of our practice.  I think the more we practice the better we can achieve pratyahara.  Light on Pranayama described pratyahara as quieting the mind saying that pranayama and pratyahara help with that.  I know that when I focus on my breathing it helps quiet the mind and I feel more focused.

So now that I feel that pratyachara is not just withdrawal of the senses to all that is around you, I feel that I could actually be practicing and doing this limb of yoga.  At this point it helps when I am in a class or following a yoga application and not just doing yoga on my own.  We all know how distracted I get when I do that.

How about you?  How well do you practice pratyahara when doing yoga?  Can you think of a time when you have experienced pratyahara when not doing yoga?

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Twists And Ten Benefits

Posted by terrepruitt on August 17, 2016

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYo, Nia Technique, SJ City Fit, SJCityFitTwists.  We do twists in Nia, we do twists in yoga, we do twists in stretching, we do twists in life.  Twists are good.  Twists stimulate adrenal glands, and since they make necessary hormones, it is nice to have them stimulated in a positive way.  Twists can also stimulate the kidneys.  Twists are thought to improve digestion, could be due to the massaging of the organs.  When the body twists around the organs move and press against each other.  All the movement in the digestive tract is said to help move food along.  Twists are said to “tone” the organs.  Practicing twists is good!

I always teach to lengthen before moving, especially in a twist, so we want to lengthen on the inhale and twist on the exhale.  Sometimes inhaling/lengthening and exhaling/twisting bit further.  When we lengthen we allow for the space in between each vertebrae to get bigger and that allows for more room for the bones to move.

Twists help with flexibility in the back, the spine mobility and the muscles of the back.  The old “move-it-or-lose-it” that so often applies.  When we include twists in our practice we help to ensure that we will be able to do all the everyday things that include twisting.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYo, Nia Technique, SJ City Fit, SJCityFitWhile doing a seated twist, try to keep both sitz bones connected to the earth.  The twist comes from the upper spine.  One reason we anchor the ischial tuberosity (sitz bones), is to stabilize the lower back.  When we work to keep ourselves firmly rooted it helps keep the lower spine from twisting.  I’m sure many of us have done it or have had a friend who has done it.  You hear that statement, “I twisted, and hurt my lower back.”  That is because the lower back tends to have more mobility and without moving mindfully it is easy to over do it.  So we keep our sitz bones anchored.

Seated twists can be done “open” or “closed”.  An “open” seated twist is where you are twisting away from the bent leg, in some cases putting your arm or shoulder against the bent leg.  In a sense allowing your chest to open away from your body.  A “closed” seated twist is where you turn TOWARD the bent leg, in some cases drawing the knee towards the chest.  If you have a leg bent in a seated twist it usually allows for a stretch into the hip area.

In B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga The Path To Holistic Health, he says, “Twists – These asanas teach us the importance of a healthy spine and inner body.  In twists, the pelvic and abdominal organs are squeezed and flushed with blood.  They improve the suppleness of the diaphragm, and relieve spinal, hip, and groin disorders.  The spine also becomes more supple and this improves the flow of blood to the spinal nerves and increases energy levels.”

So twists are good, in summary they:

1)  stimulate the adrenal glands
2)  stimulate the kidneys
3)  improve digestion
4)  massage the organs
5)  allow space in between each vertebrae
6)  help with flexibility in the spine
7)  help with flexibility in muscles of the back
8)  help to ensure that we will be able to keep twisting
9)  increase energy levels
10) feel pretty good

How do you feel about twists?  Do you include them in your practice?

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Equal Breath

Posted by terrepruitt on September 3, 2015

You may be familiar with yoga.  You know those stretching exercises people do?  That is what many people think of as yoga, stretching and bending and making your body a pretzel.  Well, the poses, the postures, the asana are a part of yoga.  That is really only one part of eight.  There are eight limbs of yoga.  Another part is pranayama.  I mentioned one in my post Breath: Quiet and Safe.  In that post I also mentioned why I often compare Nia and yoga.  First of all I believe that Nia has incorporated many things from yoga into Nia, so that is one reason why I talk about yoga and Nia.  But I also talk about them being similar because Nia is a dance exercise and for many people that is all it is.  And since cardio exercise is beneficial I think that is fine, if that is as far as people want to go with it.  The same with yoga.  Yoga is an exercise.  You can just do the moves and, I believe through movement, gain many benefits.  However, if you want to get more out of it, there are these other things that you can practice, and one of them is pranayama.

Now, Iyengar says “attempt pranayama only when the yoga asanas have been mastered.”  Because that is what Patanjali says in the Yoga Sturas.  But for many of us that means we would never do pranayama or if we did it would be years and years AFTER we have been practicing.  Now, I am just starting to learn more about pranayama, so if you want to heed the master, by all means, please do.  I think, however, that pranayama is beneficial so I don’t want to wait until I have mastered the asana, because, quite honestly I might not “MASTER” them at all.

Now some people might hear pranayama and think that is just to woo-woo.  What is that anyway, just a bunch of crossed-legged people breathing?  Well, there are specific pranayamas.  And there are specific ways to do them.  And even specific times.  But let me ask you this:  have you EVER, EVER, just stopped and held your breath?  Perhaps someone said something that made you angry so you stopped and held your breath.  Perhaps someone in a store cut in front of you in line so you stopped and held your breath.  Or have you ever stopped to took a breath?  Perhaps you were just going, going, going and you realized you wanted to slow down so you took a breath?  Perhaps you looked outside your window and realized what a beautiful day it was so you took a breath.  Now, as I said, pranayama is specific so I am not saying THAT or THOSE breaths were pranayama, but I am saying that if you have ever stopped breathing or stopped and taken a breath for any reason you might be able to see how pranayama could be beneficial.

I mentioned the other post I wrote about pranayama, Ujjayi specifically.  Well there is another one that I think of as “easy”.  It is Samavrtti.  Sama means equal so it is a practice of equality in breathing.  But in this type of breath there are FOUR parts.  Typically I think of breathing as TWO parts, inhale and exhale.  Well, with this the other two are retention.  As in holding.  Pausing after the inhale then pausing after the exhale.  The reason I say this is “easy” with quotation marks is sometimes the retention is stress inducing.  Some people don’t like to hold their breath on the inhale and some people don’t like to hold their breath on the exhale.  So while the idea is that anyone can do this at anytime, you want to make sure that this is not something that will cause you anxiety.

With this, the idea is to inhale then hold, exhale then hold.  Keeping the SAMA in mind, the goal is to inhale, hold, exhale, hold equally.  So there are many ways to do it if you are counting as a way of keep track you can inhale 1,2, hold 1,2, exhale 1,2, hold 1,2.  If the holding causes anxiety, it is ok to build up to it.  Perhaps just holding after the inhale.  Or maybe just hold on whichever retention causes less anxiety.  Then perhaps graduating to inhale 1,2, hold 1, exhale 1,2, hold 1.  There are many combinations to do while you work up to EQUAL parts.

Remember that the breaths should be relaxed and even.  So the idea is not to inhale then hold so long that your exhale is a rush of air.  It should all be even and relaxed.

Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar states in his Light On Pranayama to practice in ratios retain only on the inhalation.  Once you achieve his stated ratios THEN move onto the retention after the exhalation.  But he begins that instruction stating you will not be able to retain on the exhale.  So it could be he means to follow the ratios is you really are unable to hold your exhale.  While in general I love to follow the instructions and guidelines of the masters and experts, sometimes if I restrict myself to their instructions I end up not doing it at all.  So . . . my recommendation is to try it and do what is comfortable for you.  Being mindful and cautious.

Some say the samavritt calms the mind and can help to create steadiness and focus even in the most challenging asanas.  And others say it calms the body and focuses the mind.

Do you practice any pranayama?  Do you ever take a deep breath?

 

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