"The inner gate opens only when the outer gates are closed." Hazur
I recently taught a private yoga session to a student who normally does yoga in a group with two other friends.
In the group sessions, she was very distracted and always seemed unfocused and ungrounded. She had a great deal of trouble keeping her balance in standing poses and was never able to calm down. Her inability to focus caused her to repeat bad habits in her asana. I felt like a broken record reminding her over and over to soften her elbows in downward facing dog.
She had some injuries so I suggested that she come to me privately so we could address them.
During her private session, she was completely focused and calm. Within minutes, she was able to break her habit of locking her elbows and turning her fingers outward in downward facing dog. I didn't have to repeat myself a hundred times!
I realized that in the group classes, she was so focused on what her friends were doing that she couldn't stay connected to herself. Whether she was looking at them in comparison or for approval didn't matter, what mattered was that her outward focus was knocking her off balance.
The ability to focus inward isn't always easy. Our normal state is often to follow our senses. We see, hear, smell, touch, and taste our way through life. Our senses can make our lives wonderful, but they can also distract us from following our inner wisdom. They can draw our minds towards all the things around us. When we are overly attached to our senses, we are always chasing the next thing. We are always hungry or thirsty or wanting something or waiting for something to happen. BKS Iyengar said that, "our senses look outward naming everything they see, as if life is a non stop shopping spree!"
In the eight limbed path of yoga, the fifth limb is called pratyahara. Pratyahara is the practice of withdrawing our senses so as not to be energetically pulled away from our center. To "withdraw our senses" requires our letting go of sensory over indulgence. When we do this, we begin to follow our inner guidance instead of being guided by external events and what others around us are doing.
Rolph Gates, author of Meditations from the Mat, says that pratyahara is going from distraction to direction. So the more often we practice yoga or simply don't allow ourselves to be distracted by external stimuli, the more we will be able to stay centered, balanced, and guided by our always present inner wisdom.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras