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.
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Living Yoga: Make Yoga Your Lifestyle
Yoga is more than the practice of asana, or physical postures. Living yoga means integrating the principles of yoga into your thoughts, words and actions; it means taking yoga beyond your mat. Learn more about living yoga and explore a variety of class option such as Tantrik Meditations, Yogic Paths and Injury, Inquiry and Insight to expand your practice.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
The Eight Limbs of Yoga are core principles that serve as a compass for living a meaningful and purposeful life.
Yamas are ethical considerations to help guide interactions with others. There are five yamas:
- Nonviolence (Ahimsa)
- Truthfulness (Satya)
- Non-stealing (Asteya)
- Chastity and fidelity (Brahmacharya)
- Non-coveting (Aparigraha)
At first glance, these considerations mirror the basic morals taught in kindergarten, but have depth in their continued practice. Here are a few alternative versions to consider:
- Ahimsa: practice nonviolence in thought, word and deed; practice self-love
- Satya: tell the truth; opt for silence if your words may harm others
- Asteya: do not steal, even in non-material ways, such as withholding information or time
- Brahmacharya: use your energy wisely and with intention; avoid excess or overindulgence
- Aparigraha: you are enough and you have everything you need already
Please keep in mind that there are many interpretations of the Yamas and Niyamas; find the definitions best suited to your personal practice.
The Niyamas are practices that inform self-discipline and worldview. The maxims below generally reflect the essence of each Niyama:
- Saucha: “Leave a place cleaner than you found it” (cleanliness)
- Santosha: “Don’t worry, be happy” (contentment)
- Tapas: “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going” (willpower and self-discipline)
- Svadhyaya: “Learn from your mistakes” (study of self and sacred scriptures)
- Ishvara Pranidhana: “Have faith” (surrender to the divine)
Asana refers to the physical postures practiced in yoga. Derived from the root word as in Sanskrit, which means seat, asana is designed to prepare the body and mind for seated meditation. The term asana refers to the ancient yogic tradition of taking a seat close to your teacher. Beyond the physical, asana refers to an outlook that life is full of opportunities to learn, even through obstacles: find the teacher in all things.