Beyond your Body
Most people are now familiar with the word Yoga. The practice of Yoga Asana has become so popular that the word "Yoga" is often used to mean "the poses of Yoga." To truly describe the practice we have to deepen our understanding.
Yoga is the practice of eight limbs: asta anga. The first four are the most well known and accessible: Asana, Pranayama, Yama and Niyama. You can read more about them in another blog. In order to move beyond the physical (anamayakosha), we must practice the eight limbs of Yoga. The final four: withdrawing inward, concentration, meditation and divine consciousness are the paths which move us beyond our mind and body.
Pratyahara is the practice of moving inward. Our skills of asana and pranayama lead us toward a more quiet body and mind thus preparing us to release from the bondage of the physical. When we are no longer distracted by body limitations and the chatter of our thoughts we become able to connect more deeply with our selves.
There are many tools available for helping us to practice pratyahara: mantra, breathing and mudra are all physically and mentally engaging tools that draw our attention inward. The more we do so, the less distracted we are by our surroundings.
Dharana is that one-pointed concentration developed through consistent practice and dedication. When we detach from the physical, we are better able to look within and focus.
We can practice dharana by using techniques including tratak (gazing), pranayama, guided focus practices and spending time in quiet places. The more we practice these techniques, the more easily we can return to them when we need them. They are useful on airplanes, in busy offices, while in traffic, and when the quality of energy around you begins to become overwhelming.
Dhyana is meditation; stillness on every level. Meditation can occur while seated or moving. The key aspect of this practice is that you are one-pointed and still within.
I wish I could tell you exactly what to do to access meditation, but I can't, because you can't. Meditation cannot be done. It happens. It happens as a result of all of the other practices you do. Once it happens, it doesn't go away. You reach a state of liberation and are no longer drawn toward distractions. The only way to access dhyana is through practice of the previous six limbs.
Samadhi is the ultimate state we work to reach. It is similar to dhyana with the exception that you are not effected by emotions, attachments, etc. You are still and peaceful on all levels and move through life in this way at all times.
I like to use the word "integration" to explain samadhi: we become so aware of the interconnection of all things that we no longer percieve separation. Once again, this is something that happens, we can't practice it or make it happen. We just have to stick with our other practices and allow samadhi to occur.
At Lake Tahoe Yoga we integrate the eight limbs into every class. Our intention is to provide you with the tools to practice on your own so that you may access the deeper aspects of Yoga. Join us for group sessions that provide a general overview of how to practice Yoga. Book a Private Session to begin deepening your individual practice. Learn more on our website and blog.