We have continued to explore the 8 limbs of yoga in our classes this term. I prefer to think of them as spokes of a wheel, as together, they lead us to an integrated whole. In each class I teach, the spokes are present to support us to explore new territory of our bodies and minds and to develop a smooth relationship with ourselves, which can lead to ease and wellbeing.
However much of a class is taken up with three parts of the yoga wheel. The Yoga Sutra, in the end of the chapter on embodiment, braids together the three practices of asana, pranayama and pratyahara. Each balances the other, and when threaded together create a stronger support for each other.
Asana is posture, and we are advised to be steady and ease-ful in our posture
Pranayama is breath awareness, and we are encouraged to develop a smooth and steady breath and to be mindful of the inhalation, exhalation and pauses between.
Pratyahara is the blossoming of concentration as our senses are drawn towards a singular object and distractions are minimised.
Today in our morning class we did a simple experiment. While sitting, we lifted one leg and open and closed the knee. On the other side, we did the same physical movement, but at the same time we added a breath awareness, we inhaled to straighten the leg, and exhaled to close.
When we observed the effects of this practice, many could feel a distinct difference between the two legs- some of us even needed to re-do the first side with the breath awareness to feel an evenness in the knees.
So what was going on? The same movement, but with breath awareness and co-ordination drew our attention deeper – we noticed less boredom and wandering of the mind- better concentration and focus.
Asana- pranayama-pratyahara. The key threads of yoga practice
And this reflects how I weave my classes. We practice movement co-ordinated with breath awareness, of the inhale, exhale and pauses, and this draws out attention inward. Our senses are then less distracted by external and internal distractions and our concentration and focus improves.
Try the experiment yourself and let me know what you notice.