Pratyaahvaya Yoga - The Yoga Of Resonance And Compassion
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Written by Jaime Carlo-Casellas, Ph.d   

At a recent Yoga retreat two questions were raised: “What do you want to gain from your Yoga practice?” and “What has Yoga done for you?” The answers, suffused with “I” and “me,” implied that Yoga tends to be an egocentric practice that endeavors to improve the sense of self. That being said, an often unacknowledged benefit of Yoga is that it opens the door for us to begin to recognize the sameness (saamya) among all living beings.

Recognizing this sameness is the raison d’être of what I named Pratyaahvaya Yoga. (Pratyaahvaya means “Resonance” in Sanskrit.) At the heart of Pratyaahvaya Yoga is Patánjali’s Yoga Sutra (I.33), which addresses the immeasurable virtues of love (brahma viharas). These virtues are friendliness (maitri), compassion (karuna), delight in the joy of others (mudita) and equanimity (upekshanan). The brahma viharas are powerful antidotes to the negative mental states (kilesas) of hatred, craving and delusion – fetters to our potential for kindness and compassion.

The focus of Pratyaahvaya Yoga is to foster the brahma viharas, restrain the klesas, and placate the major causes of suffering (dukkha) described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra I.30. These causes include disease, doubt, laziness, distorted vision and the inability to find a firm ground for spiritual investigation.

The keystone of Pratyaahvaya Yoga is Hatha Yoga, which was introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a 15th century A.D. Hindu sage, in his classic treatise, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.This treatise describes the asanas, pranayama, chakras, kundalini, bandhas, kriyas, shakti, nadis and mudras. Along with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra and the Bhagavad-Gita, the Pradipika defines the guiding principles of Hatha Yoga – the root of most styles of Yoga.

The different styles of Hatha Yoga strive to prepare the yogi for samadhi, the state of inner harmony described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (I.20). Orthodox yogis agree that by reaching samadhi the mind calms down, attentiveness increases and information processing is enhanced. As a result of the attained serenity, the yogi begins to experience the integration of the inner cosmos with the external Universe.

At the neurobiological level, we know now that the salutary effects of Yoga are attributable to changes in the structure and function of the brain. These changes incite the secretion of the neuropeptides of pleasure (“feel-good” hormones), such as serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, testosterone and ß-endorphin and lower the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

The aim of Pratyaahvaya Yoga is to show us how to cultivate the mind by directing the energy of our egocentrism to dissolving the boundaries between “I” and “we,” so that we may begin to resonate and empathize with loved ones, friends, strangers, adversaries, and enemies…and all other sentient beings.

The energetic kriyas (sets of asanas) of Pratyaahvaya Yoga let us experience the dukkha that all sentient beings experience. Hypothetically, these kriyas activate the sympathetic nervous system – the branch of the nervous system recruited during the fight, flight or freeze response. The sitting or supine asanas, such as savasana or sukkha asana, provide the opportunity to experience
contentment (sukkha) even in the midst of challenge or difficulty. With continued practice, the yogi may well transcend into the state of samadhi. These meditative asanas, in theory, recruit the parasympathetic nervous system – the branch of the nervous system that prompts the rest, relax and digest response.

Although Pratyaahvaya Yoga shares many of the guiding principles of other styles of Hatha Yoga, its objective is to show us that all of us are on a journey on a ship that is doomed to sink. At the risk of sounding morbid, we must look at life as a terminal illness, with days of remission and days of exacerbation. To make the journey as pleasant as possible for all of us, we must direct our energy to understanding the suffering of others. Pratyaahvaya Yoga opens the door for us to tap into the joy available to us when we extend love and compassion to all living beings. It also endeavors to teach us to understand that the conundrum that unites us is our yearning for happiness and freedom from suffering.

Pratyaahvaya Yoga impels us to analyze and divest ourselves of self-serving dogmas that deprecate, denigrate, dishonor or oppress others. It encourages us to look into the inner chambers of presence of the adversary – an important step to recognizing and abrogating the ravages of wars and conflicts. By practicing Pratyaahvaya Yoga we begin to see that alone we can do nothing, that alone we are nothing and that what is, we may not see.

The Pratyaahvaya Yoga Maxim by Jaime Carlo-Casellas

May we care for ourselves, our loved ones, friends and strangers.

May we be aware of the sameness between us, our adversaries and enemies.

May we be free from danger.

May we enjoy mental happiness and physical happiness.

May we enjoy ease of well-being.

May we learn to cope with the obstacles in our lives and our suffering with love, compassion, understanding and acceptance.

May we remember that we are integral, interdependent and interconnected members of the universe that we live in, so let our lives resonate with that of all sentient beings.

Let us not forget that alone we can do nothing, that alone we are nothing, and that what is we may not see.

Jaime Carlo-Casellas, Ph.D. is the founding director of the Stress Management & Prevention Clinic and the Fountain of Serenity Yoga in Rancho Mirage, California. He is the author of Chaos & Bliss – A Journey to Happiness. Visit him at  FountainOfSerenityYoga.com.

 
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