The Eight Limbs of Yoga
This Month: Pratyahara & Dharana
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The Fifth Limb is Pratayahara – “prata” means “away” or “retreat”; “ahara” means “nourishment” or what feeds the senses. Pratayahara translates into withdrawing from that which nourishes our senses. This forms the basis of “non-attachment”.
Instead of our emotions controlling us with what it desires/craves, we become the controller of those emotions. When we are unable to stop the flow of these emotions, they very often cause an emotional imbalance, which in turn can, and in most cases, will, result in physical illness.
Yoga, and more to the point, meditation is the means to find the way to step back, or retreat, from our wants and needs and begin to learn the path to inner peace and enlightenment.
This happens naturally in meditation, as we turn our consciousness inward, focusing on the breath and/or the mantra. As difficult as this may sound, this has always been where we have been headed with our yoga practice.
Chapter IV – Verses 27- 33 **
In the intervals between these discriminative thoughts,
distracting thoughts arise
due to other past habitual thoughts.
Their cessation is like that of the obstacles
that were previously described,
that is, destroying them through meditative absorption.
One who is free of self-interest, even from the attainment of
the highest realizations, and who possesses
constant discrimination is showered with
virtues from being absorbed in Spirit.
From this comes a cessation of obstacles
and karmic patterns.
Then all the obscuring veils and impurities
are removed due to the endlessness of self-knowledge.
Then only trivial knowledge of the
objective world remains hidden.
Thereafter, having fulfilled their purpose
through the series of transformations,
the power of the primal natural forces terminates.
As these forces come to an end,
time is slowed to such a degree
that the moments that correspond to
the sequence of these transformations
become readily comprehended.
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The Sixth Limb is Dharana, “concentration of the mind”.
The mind is miraculously complex, capable of thousands of thoughts per second. This wandering of the mind has come to be known as “monkey mind”, as it chatters in all directions.
Dharana is the practice of holding our thoughts completely in one direction, quieting the monkey mind, enabling us to achieve utter concentration on one specific thing. The more we concentrate, the more we can fully contemplate the one thing we have chosen to focus on.
This is not something that can be expected to be done immediately. Patience is necessary and years of practice, but the benefits are enormous.
Chapter III – Verses 9 – 13**
From this, there is a true
transformation of the mind
as outgoing thoughts cease
their former pattern of reacting
to the appearance or disappearance
of subliminal impressions.
Instead, moments of restrained thought predominate.
By frequent repetition
of that restraint
an undisturbed flow
of tranquility results.
In the process of
being absorbed in Spirit,
the though process experiences
a second transformation
resulting from the continuous
appearance of one-pointedness
and the disappearance of distraction.
a third transformation occurs
from the one-pointedness that results
in the rising and subsiding
thoughts become equal.
By these three processes,
there is a transformation of the mind’s
quality, character and condition.
In the same manner,
there is a spiritual transformation of the senses,
and even in one’s constitutional elements.
**Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
As Interpreted by Mukunda Stiles
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