We often think of a yoga practice as consisting of a sequence of asanas, as we move from pranayama (breathing exercises), sun salutations and standings poses to supine poses before resting in shavasana. The linearity of time appears to run parallel along with the flow of yoga sequences. Every movement is a state of become and becoming, as we refresh, readjust and realign our bodies with the rise and fall of our inhalations and exhalations.
From the outset, the practice of yoga would seem no different from our experience of life: time, breath and action are all interlaced within every moment. Yet, the intent behind yoga runs contrary to this indefinite and continuous succession of time from past, present and into the future. Samadhi, the transcendence of physical, time and space into the eternal stillness or no-time, represents the ultimate goal of all. Is there ever a moment of stillness within our existence? Since our physical experience cannot be static, to look outside the self would ensue the “goal” of yoga a challenging and if not an impossible one.
Pratyahara, the withdrawal of the sense from objects and subjects by moving one’s consciousness inwards, represents one of the methodologies in Raja Yoga to guide one along the path to Samadhi. As a yoga student and practitioner, Pratyahara is something in particular that I would remind myself from time to time during my yoga practice. The chaotic mind ceases to be distracted when we are focused intently on our breath and alignment, even more so when the yoga pose is challenging and demands our full attention. Without moving one’s consciousness inwards to the self, yoga asanas would be daunting and impossible to perform. The opposite is true too, as the practice of yoga conditions one to steady the mind and transcend the physical limitations of the body.
If our physical experience is a construct of the mind, then is not time an illusion of the mind? To practice yoga would then be the transcending of this illusive linear construct, merging into the One mind, the consciousness of the Brahma. This is my understanding of Yoga.
Yu Ting Ong (YTT 200hr, August 2017)