Meet the TTs | Pratyahara, Dhyana, Dharana

image1.jpeg

When I began yoga classes, all I knew were the physical postures and that I was supposed to be breathing. In fact, that was really all my practice entailed until I met my teacher. Many of us practice yoga focusing only on these 2 limbs of asana and pranayama, which is unfortunate. True transformation and liberation are possible when we apply all 8 limbs in an integrated method of logical steps.

Yoga is a technology for life. Through this series of blog posts, Three Jewels’ inaugural group of yoga teachers-in-training has delved into less-publicized aspects of the practice. When applied holistically, with a full view of all that encompasses this true science of living, the yogic path reveals how to find lasting happiness, real peace and ultimate connection.

Thank you to our budding yoga teachers for sharing the wisdom they have learned and for their compassionate offerings to our sangha. I look forward to them sharing even more with our community in the very near future. Stay tuned and please stay!

With love & gratitude,

Allison Joy Phillips

Director of Yoga


PRATYAHARA | Cherry Dazzell

Pratyahara, the fifth limb of Master Patanjali’s yogic path, involves a more refined practice of renunciation. The knee-jerk understanding of this concept imposes retirement to a mountain cave away from material possessions and duties. To truly practice renunciation, we can adopt an attitude of non-attachment to objects and situations while engaging fully in the day-to-day world of activity. Hence, there is a striking difference between renouncing attachment to objects and rejecting the actual objects.

The cultivation of non-attachment begins with learning how to relax the mind-body complex. In the flux of life’s ups and downs, relaxation serves to disarm emotive responses, which create disharmony in the mind. Incessant mental turmoil yields physical illness. The first four limbs of Master Patanjali’s yoga system (yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama) transform life into an expression of wellbeing. Once the mind is well practiced at inhabiting restful, revitalizing states, without losing awareness of the present, pratyahara can be attained. Pratyahara occurs when the mind experiences a cessation of sensory input from the external world. As the mind is drawn inwards, it becomes fit for Self-Realization.

 

DHARANA | Jeremy Roland

Dharana is the sixth limb of yoga. Translated as concentration, focus, or attention. One of three limbs that begins the seekers innermost quest (antaratma sadhana). Dharana is described by BKS Iyengar in Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as,

“the art of reducing the interruptions of the mind and ultimately eliminating them completely so that the knower and the known become one.”

Yoga from this perspective is described as the removal of the unwanted; a purification. Dharana is the absence of distraction. Concentration in this case is never lost, just obscured or veiled when sought… no more lackluster... now the seeker is Illuminated.

 

DHYANA | Gabriel Woodhouse

Dhyana, the seventh limb of yoga, is considered one of the three “internal aspects,” together with dharana (concentration) and samadhi (Ultimate consciousness). It deals with the subjective sphere of experience. Its nature is subtle, intimate and gentle. A functional way to understand dhyana is meditation or mindful awareness, but I have found that it is better to use metaphor to appreciate the nature of this profound limb.

Imagine that your heart-mind is a beautiful, transcendent light inside you opening and expanding infinitely. This is the essence of dhyana: spacious, boundless and luminous, beyond the confines of ordinary experience.

This limb has helped me tremendously -- even in very tangible, concrete instances. I was recently inflicted with a back injury that was intensely painful.  In my morning Sadhana ritual, I was able to cultivate dhyana by tuning my awareness to the expansive quality of my mind to see past the momentary suffering that could have otherwise dominated my experience. This is one of the blessings of this yogic limb. It provides the space to liberate the attention from the grip of certain limitations, sensations or thoughts and receive the healing power of the transcendent that is our true nature. It is the final doorway to the destination of Samadhi, the ultimate state of mind.

 Gabriel, Cherry & Jeremy (R to L)

Gabriel, Cherry & Jeremy (R to L)

 

 


 

Meet the TTs | Niyamas

image2.jpeg

As I prepare to embark on silent meditation retreat with my dear Three Jewels sangha I am reminded of the two Niyamas Michael and Brian share below, Saucha, or purity, and Ishvara Pranidanah, or surrender.  Retreat is such a perfect opportunity to cleanse the mind as you have the opportunity to be completely selective with all that you consume for a few days. In my first experience on silent meditation retreat, I found surrender essential when working so intimately with the mind.   I am so thankful for the opportunity to move deeply into this practice with the support of these precious jewels.

With gratitude,

Allison Joy Phillips, Director of Yoga


SAUCHA | Shared by Michael McSwain

Although yoga teachers extol the virtue of wearing clean underwear to class, it's not exactly what Master Patanjali had in mind to describe saucha. So before we all jump in the shower and catch up on laundry in the name of saucha, let's see how this millennia-old concept stacks up to our modern cleaning rituals. 

It's become comically easy to live in a 'clean' environment these days. Our daily culture even caters instant, effortless cleanliness. We use brand names like verbs, but we can't swiffer and purell our way to saucha.

Saucha in the yogic sense is deeply concerned with inner purity as much as outer purity. Inner purity is not just about getting the dirt out--it's also mindfully knowing what you put in. How pure is the food you eat? How pure are the books you read? The music you listen to? The news you absorb? 

Saucha can be cultivated and tended by consuming higher quality nutrition--in all its forms. What we feed our minds and bodies becomes the foundation of what we work with on and off the yoga mat. Our mood, our thoughts, our senses, our physical and mental strength, our capacity for self-realization--these things are only reliable when we know the mind and body are operating from a pure and clean slate.

Some folks (like me) do their best thinking in the shower. So the next time you're washing away all that NYC grit, consider the ways you can also keep your inner world just as fresh and so clean clean.

 

ISHVARA PRANIDANAH | Shared by Brian Cooney

I initially met this Niyama, which means surrender to a higher power, with difficulty. It brought up similar discomfort I felt as a child when force-fed the dogma of Catholicism, which I did not connect with.

Generating reverence for a teacher was a foreign concept for me until I was introduced to it as part of Three Jewels Meditation Teacher Training. Likewise, I struggled to understand and really dive into this preliminary of meditation.

Since beginning the journey of Three Jewels Sarva Yoga Teacher Training, I have developed reverence for my teacher, Michael Hewett. Watching Michael mindfully walk his path with humility and devotion, has awakened me to the possibilities that I can do likewise. He has so drastically expanded my awareness and conceptualization of yoga feels like such a gift. 

Practicing gratitude and opening up my heart has helped me to integrate the idea of Ishvara Pranidanah into my practice and it continues to reveal new depths as I become more steady and committed to the path.

 Michael McSwain (L) and Brian Cooney (R)

Michael McSwain (L) and Brian Cooney (R)