Namaste Dear Friends,
One spot is available for this afternoon’s Restorative Yoga class with Julie. Please immediately contact us or Julie directly if you’d like to join!
As the third aspect of tristhana, the concept of drishtis is explored by Sarah Smith this week, which provides a link between the external and internal worlds. Relatedly, this week we explore the 4th limb of Patanjali’s asthanga yoga—pranayama, which is the crossover point between our external and internal yoga practices as we move toward Self-realization.
Two final points: First, Sarah Thompson will be offering two consecutive breathwork sessions on Nov 27 & Dec 4. Breathwork is a broad term used to describe breathing practices that consciously bring forward one’s subconscious mind/body. The practice can be revealing, healing and extremely growthful. Sarah has a gift for holding space for people as they journey inward, and if you’re at all interested but would like more information, please contact the studio and we can put you in touch with Sarah directly to discuss how this practice may be of benefit to you. Second, Ekadasi falls this week on Friday, November 25th. In celebration, Greg will be offering a special yoga class with a short talk, pranayama, asana and silent meditation from 5:30 to 6:45PM. See below for further details.
All of this week’s classes include:
Sunday, November 20th:
Restorative Yoga w/ Julie 3:30–4:45PM
Core & Back w/ Leanne 5:15–6:30PM
Monday, November 21st:
PWYC Express Flow w/ Julie @ 12:00–12:45PM
Intro to Yin w/ Julie @ 1:30–2:30PM
Yoga for Men w/ Greg @ 5:30–6:30PM
Meditation w/ Sarah T @ 7:00–8:30PM (Registration closed – course is full)
Tuesday, November 22nd:
Intro to Ashtanga w/ Sarah S @ 12:00–1:00PM
Vinyasa Flow w/ Julie @ 5:30–6:30PM
Gentle Yoga w/ Leanne @ 7:00–8:15PM
Wednesday, November 23rd:
PWYC Express Flow w/ Greg @ 12:00–12:45PM
Hatha Yoga w/ Greg @ 5:30–6:45PM
Intro to Yin w/ Julie @ 7:30–8:30PM
Thursday, November 24th:
Hatha Yoga w/ Greg @ 1:30–2:45PM
Intro to Ashtanga w/ Sarah S @ 5:45–7:00PM
Friday, November 25th
Fasting/PWYC Ekadasi Yoga w/ Greg @ 5:30–6:45PM
Saturday, November 26th:
Morning Flow w/ Julie @ 10:00–11:15AM
Where the eyes go, the mind will go – Drishti in Ashtanga Yoga, By Sarah Smith
We have come to the third part of the Tristhana, the three foundational aspects of Ashtanga yoga practice. This third aspect is Drishti, loosely translated to mean looking place or gazing point. It can be practiced with the eyes open or closed, during asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra or any other physical practice. It is the gateway to the fifth limb of the Ashtanga system: Pratyahara.
During the asana practice, drishti is a tool that is used to keep the mind steady. By looking, or softly gazing at one fixed point – most often turned toward one’s own body in any given posture – the eyes receive less stimulus and therefore less information for the brain to process. In Triangle posture, for example, the drishti is hastagrai – looking toward the hand; in Downward Facing Dog posture, the drishti is nabi chakra – in toward the navel; and in most seated postures, the drishti is nasagrai – toward the tip of the nose (without crossing your eyes!).
The steady gaze has an immediate effect on one’s ability to harness the mind’s attention, and looking in toward the body encourages the mind to turn away from external distraction. When we’ve got the mind’s attention, then it is directed toward the breath – Ujjayi, the first aspect of the Tristhana – and the posture – asana; the second aspect. So, the three foundational pillars of the Ashtanga practice work together as techniques to help the aspirant gain control over the ever wandering mind.
Pratyahara or withdrawing from the senses, is the slow turnaround from external to internal focus. It’s been described as a river flowing backwards, and I like to think of it as the reversal of a tide where the energy moving in one direction slows and instinctively begins to flow in the opposite direction. So, where the first four limbs of the Ashtanga system are practiced outwardly (the way we act in the world, our personal observances, our physical practice and the practice of controlling the breath), the final three are completely inward (concentration, meditation and realization). Pratyahara, or moving the mental energy from the external to the internal, is the bridge between them. Practicing drishti is one of the most effective ways that we can begin to learn how to harness the ever curious, ever moving mind and direct its attention toward our inner environment.
BREATHWORK by Sarah Thompson
Nov. 27th & Dec. 4th (12:30-3:00 PM) Come and explore how the breath can facilitate change. We will use simple, effective breathing techniques to explore the self and to learn how to better cope with stress. Art, writing and movement will be used to further enhance our discoveries. Cost: $65 ~~~~~~
Ekadasi is a Sanskrit word for the number 11 and indicates the 11th day of each half of the month in the Vedic lunar calendar, occurring roughly twice per month. The movement of the moon is believed to be directly correlated with the quality of the mind, which is said to be ripe for concentration/meditation on Ekadasi. Fasting, in part or fully, is an integral part of Ekadasi so as to focus one’s energy/prana on the Divine Self rather than mundane things. Regardless of one’s convictions, fasting gives the body-mind system a rest from dietary irregularities and over indulgences. The class is free for “fasters” and PWYC for others.
YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI
This week we explore the 4th limb of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga system—pranayama, often translated as breath control/restraint. The journey from gross to subtle reaches a crossover point with pranayama as our practice becomes more internalized and subtle.
(Chapter 2, Sutras 49–53)
49. The next step is pranayama, which is the control of the inhalation and exhalation of breath.
50. Pranayama is inhalation, exhalation or retention of breath; it is regulated by place, time and number, and (becomes progressively) prolonged and subtle.
51. The fourth type (of pranayama) goes beyond the sphere of inhalation and exhalation.
52. That unveils the light.
53. And makes the mind fit for dharana (concentration).
Prana is the vital energy of creation; as such, all matter possesses it. Although yoga recognizes that prana may be obtained from food and water, its primary source is the air that is breathed. Directing the amount of prana in one’s body-mind system by way of breath mastery facilitates one’s inward journey toward Self-realization. As a technique, pranayama involves specific breathing exercises for heating/cooling the body, raising its energy levels, or relaxation.
As seen in Sutra 50, Patanjali describes three types of pranayama: inhalation, exhalation, and retention, which become prolonged and subtle with practice. Of note, other yogic texts describe these practices in detail, for example, retention with breath, retention without breath, alternative nostril breathing, forced inhalation/exhalation, etc.
Sutras 51–53 describe the subtlest type of pranayama, which is beyond any sense of “control” we may think. Pranayama is like the asanas in that we first engage in their grossest manifest forms (often with great discomfort and effort!). With practice, however, we begin to experience their more subtle aspects, as each gross layer is peeled away, bringing to light greater awareness. In terms of the three gunas, moving from the gross to the subtle is moving from the tamas/rajas to the sattva. As with asanas, pranayama refines (i.e., increases the sattva guna of) the body-mind system.
Moreover, as these sutras suggest, it is false to simply equate pranayama with the breath and its control. The breath is merely the initial conduit through which we gain awareness and then mastery of prana itself. Mastering prana allows the yogi to direct it to awaken the great psychic force of kundalini, which is the latent, primordial energy at the base of spine.
Om Namah Shivaya