Turning inward: an experience of Pratyahara


I entered the lobby of the yoga studio expecting the usual class size of about twenty people. To my surprise, there was a crowd of double that size, and the instructor had asked someone to help “set up the room”. I admit, that initially, I had a moment of disappointment, since what I was expecting did not align with what was currently happening, but I quickly let that go, and set out my yoga mat in my “assigned spot” at the back of the room. The room arranger quickly narrowed the space between the mats, so that there was 4″ or less between them. Forty people gathered for practice.

Class began and I immediately slowed my movements, moving carefully and with control, so that I would only use the space on my mat. My breathing slowed as well, practicing the ujjayi breath, conserving the number of breaths taken.

As the class progressed, my focus turned more and more inward. I did not notice the people practicing around me, so close to my own mat. At moments it felt as though I was practicing on my own little mat island on the sea of the wooden studio floor. At other moments, it seemed that the prana cultivated by each individual practitioner was moving all together at the same time through the asana practice. Moving as one. United by yoga.

I moved through the poses, but I cannot even recall all that I did, since this practice for me was an internal one. The theme of the class that day was “freedom”. I truly did feel free in my practice, letting go of my surroundings, my expectations, and simply turning my senses inward.

After the class, my mind was completely free and at peace. In the future, I will approach a tightly packed yoga class with enjoyment.

 

Pratyahara is the fifth of the eight-limbed path of yoga. It is defined as “the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses”.  For more information, please refer to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, book two.