It has been a while since my last post but life as always throws curved balls your way and plans are often destined to change to meet current needs. As I sit here and write this I am gazing at the glorious colours of autumn here in the southern hemisphere. The sky is a brilliant blue and contrasts so beautifully with the reds, yellow and green of autumn. What has all this got to do with yoga you ask?
Being able to sit in the present moment is very much a part of yoga. You may have heard about mindfulness over the last few years. In fact it is something that everyone is advocating lately. Well the yogis were practising mindfulness long before this phrase became popular. What is mindfulness from a yogic perspective?
I personally think of mindfulness as consciousness of the present moment, an awareness of where you are, what you are doing. It is being awake to life. Not simply moving through one experience while planning the next or reviewing the last. It is total presence. So you can be mindfully brushing your teeth, watching leaves blowing in the wind, listening to people who are speaking to you, driving your car or observing your breath.
In yoga we hear about Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga which include Dharana and Dyhana ..concentration and absorption. Dharana where you are relieved of outside distractions and the distractions of the mind (its desire to move between the past and the future) You keep returning to the single point the present, often using the breath as your anchor. Dhyana is a refined meditative practice where the mind is totally absorbed in the present.
Both Dharana and Dyhana are developed by building on the earlier 5 limbs of yoga including the Yamas (restraints) the Niyamas (observances), Asana (postures) , Pranayma (breathing practices ) and Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses). * For information of the Yamas and Niyamas see blog post DEC 2014 and for those of you familiar with the practice of Yoga nidra you will have experienced Pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses when your yoga teacher gets you to focus first on the sounds in the surrounding area and gradually draws your focus to the inward to the breath , heartbeat.
In this way these previous practices prepare you for both Dharana and Dhyana the sixth and seventh limbs of yoga according to Patanjali …with the ultimate aim of Samadhi the eight limb pure contemplation …an experience of bliss where you merge with supreme consciousness.
That is not to say that you must complete the first 5 limbs to achieve the 6th and 7th but when you practice asana, pranayama, the yamas and niyamas and pratyhara you are drawn to the others. Your body is more supple, you understand your breath and the effect it has on mind and vice versa, you treat yourself and others with respect and kindness and you can more readily withdraw yourself from the current going ons.