Withdrawal of the Senses: Practicing Yoga Blindfolded
In yoga philosophy, Pratyahara – translated as removal of the senses, is designed to take us from the outside to the inside, a journey for the yogi to find the Self. How about removing your ability to see? It is one thing to close your eyes during a practice, yet to actually remove the choice of opening them is a completely different matter.
Practicing yoga with your eyes blindfolded has a huge impact on the rest of your senses. You’ll feel your balance being challenged as you remove visual references and you’ll also feel the rest of your senses become deepened and refined. Another benefit is a renewed sense of gratitude. We often take simple things—like our ability to appreciate beautiful images, light, movement and action through our eyesight—for granted.
Give it a go and see for yourself what benefits arise from the removal of one of your senses. With a scarf or sleep mask, cover your eyes. Take a moment to simply get accustomed to the idea of not having the choice to open your eyes during your practice. Allow for any feelings of anxiety or fear as you adapt to this big change. Calm any sense of panic by drawing your attention to your breath and feeling the solid earth beneath your feet. Feel the difference in the air, the space filling the room. Use the rest of your senses: hearing, taste, touch and smell, and remind yourself that you can always feel for the edges of your mat if you need to regain your bearings.
Practicing blindfolded is a time to take your asana practice a little slower and use a simpler sequence, in order to go deeper within. The present moment will be magnified and you will tune deeper into your breath, feeling and hearing the sensations of your body moving. You will notice that the need for focus and presence is much greater than usual. If your mind shifts or wanders at all from the present, you’ll feel lost. You may also recognize yourself seeking for external approval by checking what others are doing or looking for visual references. Use this as an opportunity to find approval from within yourself. After all, the purpose of the practice of yoga is to connect to your deeper self; to trust yourself and feel a sense of renewed confidence from within; to realize that the answers lie within.
Enjoy the experiment and use this as an exercise to adapt to change, to become more grateful for the smaller or invisible aspects of your life. Notice the qualities and attributes that arise during the practice and what effects you feel at the end. Take this as an opportunity to feel grateful for the simple things in life, the ability you have to see, to appreciate beauty.
Vernal Equinox: Rhythm And Ritual Through Yoga
Over the course of each year, our playful planet performs an elliptic dance around the sun while simultaneously spinning about its own imperfect axis, which tilts roughly 23 degrees from vertical. Born of the primordial fire, the terms of this intricate cosmic relationship are responsible for all of the natural rhythms that inform our daily lives — from changing weather patterns to reliable zeitgebers that regulate our internal clocks.
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
THE STORY OF A BLUE SPHERE AND A FIERY MASS
As Earth diligently revolves around the sun each year, there are four distinct sandhis, or junctures, where a clear seasonal shift occurs from our terrestrial perspective. The vernal equinox is one such juncture, marking the transition from winter to spring.
As we welcome the appearance of new life in nature, many of us remain blissfully unaware. We may neglect or even override the innate curiosity that seeks to understand how our cozy blue sphere and its fiery solar star orchestrate this magnificent show year after year. The truth is, when it comes to their relationship status, “it’s complicated.”
A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO VISUALIZATION
Imagine yourself sitting in a camping chair with your feet warmed by the heat of a well-burning fire. Fortunately, you’re equipped with a warm scarf and hat to dull the chill you might otherwise experience as you recline back (at exactly 23.4°) to enjoy the stars. Now, without adjusting the direction your chair is facing, imagine yourself orbiting around the focal fire to the opposite side, giving the back of your head a chance to enjoy the warmth of the flame.
If your feet were the southern hemisphere and your head were the northern hemisphere, these two positions would represent the winter solstice (with more heat reaching the bottom half of your body) and the summer solstice (with more heat reaching the top half of your body) respectively.
To visualize the vernal equinox, imagine your chair were to revolve just a quarter of the way around this campfire circle. In this position, your body would be leaning neither toward nor away from the fire and the projected plane of your navel (the equator of your body) might pass directly through the center of the glow. Also, the light reaching one side of your body would match the darkness on the opposite side, much like the day and night which are of approximately equal length on the equinox.
Still confused? Don’t sweat it, simply allow yourself to enjoy the fruits of spring with a deep knowing that there are some wildly wonderful forces at play.