As human beings, regardless of what we possess or achieve, it seems we never settle. Somehow it feels like we are always searching for something more. We tend to direct this search outward, but as we most likely have experienced, it ends up be an unfulfilling one. Once we shift our attention inwards, new possibilities will start opening up.
The forth Limb is known as Pranayama, the word Prana refers to the vital life energy. Here, we are talking about the right management of our Prana. Generally translated as control of the breath, this practice consists of techniques designed to control our Prana, while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions.
Through the teachings of Sadhguru, I have learned and practiced different techniques which have been a tremendous support in my daily experience. The practice of Pranayama varies from simple to complex. A simple technique can be incorporated in our daily routine. This balances our system in a beautiful way, and brings such peace, resulting in psychological wellbeing.
If you’re new to this, here is an introduction.
It means withdrawal of the Senses or the Right use of the senses.
It is very important to consciously make an effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. This could be on a deeper level of withdrawal of the senses, but a very simple example is the constant use of our phone or computers. We can consciously reduce the constant stimuli but it is a more challenging one in our modern days.
I had a very interesting experience when I was in India back in 2010, for a week long Silence program. This is an intensive program conducted at the Isha Yoga Center, where participants are completely silent. After coming out of the program, when I started talking once again, only then I realized what an incredible impact I had felt being silent and keeping all other senses to the minimum. I totally felt the energy we lose through constant communication, as simple as talking to another.
What can one do if in life situations that do not allow such retreat?
So many choices every moment! We can try to minimize the constant stimulation around us by keeping exposure to our phones and computers to the minimum, phase out unnecessary noises like tv or radio, reducing strong scented products and perfumes. If possible, to take walks in nature without distractions. Or try to commit to sit in silence for at least ten minutes a day. This will have a very positive effect on our wellbeing in general.
Can be translated as fixing the mind to one specific point
(it can be an object, or an activity).
When we focus the mind intensely into one point, the rest of the mind tends to quiet down. This practice is very important, once again, due to how our life has become: multitasking, attention being dispersed to many activities at once, and as a result, we lack focus, we see an increase in stress levels, and we feel overwhelmed.
To integrate this practice into our life, we can start by trying to concentrate on one thing at a time, whatever that may be. The more we apply this principle, the more we will cultivate concentration. In the yogic sense, more advanced techniques have been transmitted to practice this concentration, dharana.
Meaning meditation or contemplation.
It is understood that once one masters Dharana, then meditation becomes an effortless state. It would then be my understanding that Meditation itself is not a practice, but a state in which one can be, where there is continuous flow of concentration.
I somehow connect to this understanding, as I feel meditation happens effortlessly when certain aspects have been attended to, or a certain preparation was made. It just is such a natural flow of states, practices leading up to Dhyana.
There are many practices out there that attend to these, and seems like this would be the end goal.
Except that Patanjali explains that it is not. Hence the eighth limb….
And finally, Bliss or Enlightenment.
This is when true Union or Yoga happens.
Our happiness is not depending on external sources; joy is our nature.
I would be wrong to even attempt to interpret this in my own words, based on my understanding. I prefer using the words of the sages to use the above words to describe it, and leave it at that.
This is an exciting journey, and some things just have to experienced. Attaining Samadhi seems to be the stage for which we practice all other limbs.