Friday, February 9, 2007

Unintentional But Necessary Pratyahara

I was supposed to be at the Rolf Gates seminar this weekend, but as luck would have it, my knee, which has been painful on and off for a couple weeks, flared up again. I spent the day making arrangements to sell my passes to the Saturday and Sunday intensives to someone else in order to avoid doing serious damage to my knee. I was unable to get someone to take my place tonight and tomorrow morning, so I went to the studio only to learn that due to a registration snafu, there wasn't space for me in the class anyway!

An interesting twist. Something is telling me I need to take it easy, which is hard for me to do. I really don't like missing a workout or yoga. And I've never had a knee problem a day in my life, so I'm sort of in unchartered territory. I've been telling myself it's no big deal, but it keeps hanging on, and my unwillingness to recognize it as something potentially serious could actually turn it into just that. Not going to the Gates seminar—not being able to go because there was no space—suddenly changed my whole weekend.

As I was driving home I thought, What am I going to do? I now have absolutely nothing scheduled for the entire weekend. A little panic went through me—won't I be bored? And then, joy. Nothing scheduled! It's been weeks...maybe since December that I haven't had a day of nothing on the calendar. My week is usually work, gym, yoga, work, work, gym, yoga, work, gym, work, yoga, church—plus all kinds of other appointments peppered in between.

Suddenly, a recent Yoga Journal newsletter about this very subject began to surface in my memory. And I totally get it. Here's an excerpt:
Return to Stillness
In a world of information overload, the yoga practice of pratyahara offers us a haven of silence. By Judith Lasater

"...In the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali—the most ancient and revered sourcebook for yoga practice—the second chapter is filled with teachings about the ashtanga (eight-limbed) yoga system. The system is presented as a series of practices which begin with "external limbs" like ethical precepts and move toward more "internal limbs" like meditation. The fifth step or limb is called "pratyahara" and is defined as "the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses." Almost without exception yoga students are puzzled by this limb. We seem to inherently understand the basic ethical teachings like satya (the practice of truthfulness), and the basic physical teachings like asana (the practice of posture), and pranayama (the use of breath to affect the mind). But for most of us the practice of pratyahara remains elusive...

To me, practicing pratyahara doesn't mean running away from stimulation (which is basically impossible). Rather, practicing pratyahara means remaining in the middle of a stimulating environment and consciously not reacting, but instead choosing how to respond..."

Now that I have nothing scheduled, I'm going to choose to keep it that way. Go with the flow. SLEEP LATE! Get this knee better. Maybe, not even blog!

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