Terre Pruitt's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘yamas’

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.

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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 To me his explanation made a lot of sense because he was saying that our senses are not entirely withdrawn and shut off .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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Svadhyaya – The Fourth Niyama

Posted by terrepruitt on March 21, 2016

I’m still looking into the Eight Limbs of Yoga (1:  The yamas – restrictions/restraints/ethical principles    2:  The niyamas – rules/observances/spiritual practices    3:  The asana – the poses    4:  Pranayama – breath work    5:  Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses    6:  Dharana – concentration    7:  Dhyana – meditation and    8:  Samadhi – transcendence)  I am working my way down the list posting about a little bit about each limb.  With the first two limbs there are five of each yama and niyama.  I am working my way through them, too.  Well, this post is about the fourth niyama or rule, observance, spiritual practice.  It is svadhyaya – study of self.

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One can study or examine oneself for various reasons.  One way many are probably familiar with is eating . . . you have probably heard the terms “emotional eater”, “stress eater”, “bored eater” and the idea is to stop and think – examine when you eat so you can identify if you are one of these types of eaters.  These labels could be applied to many things . . . drinker . . . fighter . . . .abuser . . . “neglector” . . . cleaner . . . . smoker . . . whatever the situation, the study has to be done first in order for the behavior to be altered.  WHY is it you are doing what you are doing?  What is it that causes you to do what you do?  With that type of knowledge of self then steps can be taken to change.

A lot of our behaviors are habits and sometimes just acknowledging that and applying a little bit of mindfulness we can change the habit.

If you want to think about svadhyaya in relationship to “on the mat”, the actual practice of the third limb of yoga, the asana, then it can be applied in the sense that it is all about you when you are on the mat.  There is no competition between the person on the mat next to you.  Or you having to do something in order to please or impress the teacher.  It is all about you and what is going on with you at that particular mat time.  This is a great time to practice svadhyaya.  It is when you get to stop all the other thinking and think about things like how your foot is connected to the earth.  It is your whole foot or just the edge?  Are you using the muscles necessary to make certain that it is the whole foot.  Are your shoulders down?  Is your chest open?  Is your spine long?  Is your stance too wide?  Can you tweak your arm/leg/head just a little in order to invite in that sense of relaxed control?  Where you are not sinking into your joints hanging out in a pose, but using your muscles but not over using them?  Are you aware of the placement of your knee?  Are you focused on your breath?   If you study how each pose is sensed by your body it allows you to try to determine if you are in the pose correctly and allows you to get the most out of it.

With the study of self there is knowledge gained about self.  With the knowledge of self one can work to improve or enhance oneself.  With enhancement of self, the idea is that one moves closer to the divine.  Many think of the divine as different things.  But most people agree that we all have areas in which we could grow.  Most people agree there is always room for improvement.  It makes sense that we have to look in and examine, practice svadhaya, before we can change.  This is just one way – and a brief one at that – to look at svadhaya.

What do you think?  Do you think of svadhaya on the mat?

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Sauca – The First Niyama

Posted by terrepruitt on March 7, 2016

I teach Nia, you may know that.  You may also know that Nia is a cardio dance exercise.  You can go to class get a workout and not think about it at all.  Or you can take it a little further if you would like and delve into some of the things that Nia likes to do, like connect movement with things in life, practice the 13 Principles of the Nia White Belt in your daily life.  But the 13 Principles of the first level of Nia are things like being Joyful in your movement or doing something in your own time or noticing how your body moves.  Whereas if you are going to practice more than just the physical aspect of yoga you are going to be observing rules and restrictions and practicing breathing techniques and meditating.  So even though I often compare Nia to yoga saying that it is a practice, I don’t think of the Nia practice as rules and restrictions.  With yoga there are the Eight Limbs of Yoga.  I listed them in my post “More To Yoga Than Just Asana“.  I am more familiar with the first four than the last four.  I can say that the first four have more.  As in the first two have five each, the third has hundreds, and I am not even sure how many the fourth has, but I know of at least ten.  The first limb is the yamas.  I have written a brief post on each yama.  Now I am going to skim the surface of the niyamas.

As I mentioned, there are five niyamas.  Some call them rules, some call them observances, some call them spiritual practices.  The first of the niyamas is Sauca . . . . as with many of the Sanskrit words you will probably see it spelled different ways.  While it might be spelled different, it is pretty much agreed upon that this niyama is about cleanliness, purity.

The Heart of Yoga says “Cleanliness, or keeping our bodies and our surroundings clean and neat.”

Recently I had the opportunity to examine this niyama by being assigned to write about it.  I decided to take the points that were mentioned in the lecture and make a little table.

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I decided I have showering down.  I believe that I do a good job with my general hygiene.  Although, it has come to my attention that some people don’t consider it “good hygiene” if you are not wearing make-up.  For some people wearing make-up is a very big deal and it had been pointed out to me recently – that make-up should be a part of every woman’s beauty regime.  So, I guess SOME people might not agree that I have the “good hygiene” thing down.

Oh, but if one includes, “dapper new clothes” in that “good hygiene”, yeah, I don’t have that down at all.  While my clothes will be clean, they might be really faded and what many people would think of as “time-to-get-rid-of”.  So just as someone who thinks that having make-up on is part of good hygiene, someone who doesn’t wear or tolerate old and faded clothes might think of me as not having good hygiene.

Keeping things clean is always a “needs work” because SOMETHING is ALWAYS dirty.  I mean, even if I spent all my time cleaning there would still be dirty things.  But I think I do ok with the necessary basics.  Our kitchen is clean, our bathrooms are clean (the showers could always use sand-blasting, but basically they are ok), the cats’ litter boxes are clean (that is a never ending “battle”), our house is basically clean . . . but I can’t keep up with the dust.  And, again, that is me saying it is “clean”, but I will not admit to it not being cluttered.

Who cannot swear with all this clutter around?

And cluttered speech . . . that is funny.  At times I am very aware of this and I can keep the clutter out, but sometimes a story is just so much more fun with all the drama (good drama, as in a play or good story) that clutter causes.  The suspense because you added three more sentences that were not necessary, but your audience is on edge.  Sometimes that is just too fun.

Non-judgmental . . . this kinda reminds me of the Yama, Ahimsa.  Being “non-violent” with oneself.  I could work on judging myself less harshly so as not to judge others so harshly.

Regarding the non-violent thoughts, perhaps with the non-judging, I won’t want to slap the person that didn’t obey the traffic law or show any regard to common sense while driving.  Needs work.

Ok, I think I have the littering one down.  I say, I think because I don’t litter.  I don’t throw things away if it is not in a garbage can or recycle bin.  But there might be something someone else considers littering that I do, that I am not aware of.

Not damaging the planet actually made me laugh.  It should be “work to keep your damage to a minimum”.  Because all of our modern convenience damage the planet.  Driving my car, damages the planet, having a cell phone damages the planet, eating food from our food sources damages the planet . . . . so I try to be good about it.  I take care not to waste water or electricity or even “THINGS”.  I am not a big throw-it-out-and-get-a new-one person . . . . hence all my clutter.

Good intentions.  I try, I am sure it could be better.

I work hard not to gossip.  Not easy . . . but it kind of helps when you don’t have the opportunity.

Again, as with all the limbs, I am just barely touching the surface.  These are not all the ways of sauca, but I think the list/examples we were giving was a good representation.  I am sure there are other ways it can be looked at, but in light of this, what do you think?

 

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Yoga Was Supposed To Be A Secret

Posted by terrepruitt on February 15, 2016

I recently heard that yoga wasn’t meant to be done by the masses.  It was originally supposed to be for a specific type of person.  It was basically supposed to be a secret because not everyone is ready.  Not everyone can do what needs to be done to do yoga.  The eight limbs containing the yamas and the niyams, the Nadis, the bandhas, the Vayus all of the stuff that takes a huge amount of time to learn and perfect.  Having to practice and perfect all of that with the ultimate goal of achieving ascension into the divine or merging with the divine.  It really is for people who can and want to devote their whole life to it.  Just like an athlete wanting to go to the Olympics, they pretty much give up everything to practice, practice, practice, and perfect.  Yogis, just like that.  Giving it all up so that they can devote their life to doing yoga.  That really is the only way anyone could do all of it.

If the translations are accurate with all that one has to do and give up in order to “do” yoga perfectly, you really have to be removed from the things of the world.  In order to cleanse and purify in the way that is referred to in the text one would have to live on a mountain top.  That is why it was supposed to be a secret.  That is why it was not considered something anyone could do without living apart from the modern world (perhaps the Western World).

Once I heard that it made a lot more sense to me.  I felt relieved.  I thought, “Oh, THAT explains a lot.”  That explains why, a long time ago, I remember yoga being associated with people far away on high mountain tops.  That explains why it always seemed to unattainable.  That is why, when I was young it was this super-duper strict/restrictive practice that really didn’t appeal to me.  That is why some of the poses that seem outrageous really are.  They are not meant to be done by a person who has a yoga practice several times a week.  They are truly meant to be done by someone who spends ALL their time doing yoga — and by yoga, I don’t mean the asana, I mean ALL eight limbs.  Those pretzel people don’t work 45/50 hours a week and then just show up to their mat and bend like that.  They are the deep practitioners that do YOGA.

I believe that is why the limbs get rewritten to work with the modern life.  I believe that is why there are so many version and variations and modifications and names to one pose.  Things have been adjusted to fit into a life that is not JUST yoga.  There are still many benefits to doing modern yoga.  Many people don’t think of modern yoga as yoga and I think when compared to ancient yoga, I could agree.  I don’t think of a lot of the yoga that happens as yoga.  Things like paddle board yoga and water yoga, not really yoga.  But then again, as I said, the yoga I do, the yoga I teach might not be considered yoga compared to ancient yoga.  So it really depends on what you think yoga is.  It really depends on the what and the why.  What do you want to get out of it?  Why do you want to do it?  When you do it are you getting what you want out of it and is your “why” being handled . . . .then who am I or who is anyone to say it is not yoga.

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I really think our yoga is so far away from the ancient yoga that the people from thousands of years ago would be appalled, but then again, they wouldn’t.  If they were as truly enlighten as the text said they would be if they practiced all eight limbs of yoga, they might just shrug their shoulders and get down on a mat and join us for some hot yoga, Karaoke Yoga, or whatever yoga is happening in the studio that day.

Perhaps yoga is done at different levels.  So the ancient yoga is for people who remove themselves from the modern world and dedicate their lives to nothing by yoga, and then all the other types of yoga are for the rest of us.  From the religious type of Kriya yoga all the way to Karaoke Yoga.

I have in my head some requirement for me to consider something yoga, but really in keeping with the way I’ve been taught about the yamas and the niyamas, I can just let it all be.  I can be happy that there are different “levels”.  The different levels allows it to be accessible for all.

Did you know that yoga was supposed to be a secret?  How do you feel about that?  Ever want to try something like Karaoke Yoga? Trampoline Yoga?

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The Second Is Truthfulness

Posted by terrepruitt on February 10, 2016

So, yoga is more than just poses.  Yoga has eight limbs which I listed in my post More To Yoga Than Just Asana.  The first two limbs are rules, restrictions, guidelines things of that nature.  Things to help you along the path to the divine.  The first limb is about the yamas and the second is about the niyamas, I listed them in my post Yoga’s First Two Limbs.  Now I am going through and writing a post about each one.  I wrote about Ahimsa in Ahimsa And Yourself, which I probably should have title Ahimsa and MYself.  I write about this not because I have mastered them but because I am examining yoga ideas and ideals.  So if you hear me saying something harmful, please know I am still learning.  The next yama is satya.  Satya is truthfulness.

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And that can carry to off the mat, huh?  Are we going to brag (why?) that we did more than we actually did in class?  Are we going to tell the truth in all of our dealings?

Satya could be applied to teachers.  Not just yoga teachers but to any teacher or profession that sets fees.  We need to be truthful and upfront about our fees.  Now this could help some of us that feel shy when talking about money and fees.  Yoga teachers can use satya to help them feel confident stating the fees upfront.  Things should be discussed openly and honestly.  A client should not be left to wonder about fees for a service.

Also satya can apply to marketing.  We don’t need to get caught up on all the hype that is used in a lot of marketing, making promising, and stating unsupported facts just to get people to come to our classes.  If we make false claims and that is what attracted the student then they probably aren’t really going to get a lot out of yoga and they are more than likely NOT going to be satisfied.  Then, as a teacher, you aren’t either, so no one wins in that situation.

As I stated in my Ahimsa post, I am just barely touching the surface on these things.  I think there could be volumes written about them . . . and there probably are.  They can be applied to many thing in so many ways.

I think truthfulness is one of the easiest ones to understand.  It might not be one of the easiest ones to do in thoughts, words, and actions.  But, here we all are . . . on a path of learning.

What do you think?  One of the easy yamas to understand?

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Yoga’s First Two Limbs

Posted by terrepruitt on January 25, 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, SJCityFitIn my post earlier this month about there being More To Yoga Than Just Asana, I listed the eight limbs of yoga.  Two of those limbs, the first two limbs have five principles or observances associated with them.  The first limb is the yamas and they, as I mentioned in the other post, are sometimes thought of as restrictions.  The second limb, the niyamas, are sometimes thought of as rules.  But to me rules and restrictions are somewhat the same things.  Many rules seem to be made to restrict people from doing things.  So I am not sure that is a clear enough distinction for me.  Yoga is so ancient and many of the text have been lost, so there are many translations to things.  Another way of looking at the first two limbs: are the yamas are our attitudes toward our environment and the niyamas are our attitudes towards ourselves.  That is from T.K.V. Desikachar’s translation of the Yoga Sutra in The Heart of Yoga.

The five yamas are:

Ahimsa – non-violence, non-harming
Satya – truthfulness
Asteya – non-stealing
Brahmacharya – celibacy, chastity
Aparigraha – non-possessiveness, non-coveting, non-hoarding, non-clinging

The five niyamas are:

Sauca – purity, cleanliness
Santosha – contentment
Tapas – discipline
Svadhyaya – study of self
Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to the Divine

These rules, restrictions, attitudes, whatever you choose to think of them as, are meant to be applied to our thoughts, our words, and our actions.  So, I am not really even sure there needs to be a distinction between whether it is a rule or a restriction.  But I do like the idea that one is related to an attitude towards our environment and one is related to an attitude towards oneself.  Although, I think all ten can be related to both.  Sigh.  I guess I will just stick to there really doesn’t need to be a distinction.

Each of these can be talked about in detail.  I am definitely going to be writing more posts on these.  Whether it is one post for all the yamas and one post for the niyamas, is yet to be seen, but I do want to share some of the ideas that were shared with me regarding them.  I would like to shed some light on how they can be applied to life both on and off the yoga mat.

Do you want to share any ideas about them?

 

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More To Yoga Than Just Asana

Posted by terrepruitt on January 13, 2016

I have often mentioned how Nia is a cardio dance exercise that you can take to another level and make it a practice, like yoga.  Yoga is an exercise that you can take to another level by practicing some of the other limbs of yoga.  Yoga has eight limbs.  These limbs are things that one can work with throughout a lifetime.  They are not necessarily things that one masters – well, not things that I can master.  There could be days when it feels as if they have been mastered and then days when it feels like you had never even heard of them because the ideas or actions were just not present.  So . . . these things get “practiced”.  The physical, exercise part of yoga is just one of the limbs.  While Nia is not as . . . I’ll say, “preachey” as yoga we do have some things that can be practiced outside of the dance class, off the dance floor.  Things like noticing your movement and being aware of your relationship with others and things.  But yoga’s limbs are more like rules to live by.

The eight limbs of yoga are:

1)  The yamas.  There are five yamas.  They are often compared to restrictions.  Some think of them as restraints or ethical principles.

2)  The niyamas.  There are five niyamas.  They are often compared to rules.  Some think of them as observances or spiritual practices.

3)  The asana.  There are thousands of poses.  This is the physical limb of yoga.  This is the exercise that has become very popular.  Not only are there a lot of poses, there are many different types of yoga.  Some are ancient and some are very new.  Some types have created new poses.  And sometimes I think that the ancient text has been translated so many different ways we end up with different poses.

4)  Pranayama.  There are various types of pranayama.  This is the breath work of yoga.  I have posted about two types of pranayama, Ujjayi Breathing and Equal Breath
Since this was originally posted I have posted about additional types of pranayama:
Dirgha 03.12.18, and Sitali 06.19.17


5)  Pratyahara.
  This is the withdrawal of the senses.  The idea is that when the mind has control over the senses, can withdrawal them, then it can focus on the other limbs of yoga without distraction.

6)  Dharana.  This is concentration.  The idea of concentration of the mind on one thing leads to meditation.

7)  Dhyana.  This is meditation.  The idea is to be able to concentrate on one point.  Being able to breathe to a state of withdrawal of the senses.  Having complete control.  Then concentration is pure.  Meditation is supremely focused and then . . .

8)  Samadhi.  This is transcendence.  When one is in control over mind and body.

Each of these could definitely use a blog post of their own.  Not sure I will get to them all.  But, I will at least do a post on the yamas, a post on the niyamas, and a post on pranayama.  Probably multiple posts on each of them.  So, if you are interested stay tuned.

I had heard about the first two, and knew that poses and breathing were apart of yoga.  But was not and am not so familiar with the last four.  Did you know there were eight limbs to yoga?  Which ones are you familiar with?    

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