Sample from the Winter 2007 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine

By Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri)

Dr. David Frawley is regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedic Studies. This article offers a preview of an exciting new Teacher Training program that Dr. Frawley has develop based on how the eight limbs of Yoga can be used for healing both body and mind in a complete and integrated Yoga and Ayurveda Therapy. Yama and niyama form the ideal dharmic practices and principles for spiritual practice and for healing. Ahimsa (nonviolence) and the other yamas and niyamas counter negative attitudes that damage the mind and emotions. For example, the thought of harming others or wishing negativity on others, disturbs our own psychology by sending negative energies to other people. Asana practice balances the body, particularly vata dosha. We need an asana practice in order to stabilize and relax the body. It’s not about creating stress to hold the posture, rather, it’s about relaxing into the posture. This helps us to develop a similar peaceful attitude in our daily life.

Prana is the basis of all the doshas (three life forces or energies comprised of universal elements. Vata, wind; pitta, fire, and kapha, water). Pranayama allows us to develop more prana for healing or for higher awareness. With asana you are working indirectly on the doshas through the musculoskeletal system. Asana is something you do and so it can be done in various ways. There is not just one asana for any of the doshas. How one does the asana is equally important as the form of the asana. However, pranayama can be more specifically used for heating or cooling, expanding or contracting and balancing the doshas. Pranayama is a central focus in Ayurvedic healing and can be used for physical as well as psychological problems.

Yet while increasing prana can be used to develop energy, without the process of internalizing the prana and developing sattva, that energy may not be healing or spiritually transformative in nature. Pratyahara is the step in which we begin to internalize the prana which is necessary for healing as well as for meditation. Many therapies such as massage and other forms of bodywork introduce prana by placing the patient in the mode of rest. The patient then enters into a receptive mode where their prana can be used for healing. The therapist actually is preparing the patient to move the prana back in.

In our culture today, we see many people facing problems that essentially arise from issues developing from sensory overload. We are literally bombarded with millions of stimuli every moment of our lives. What junk food does to the body, junk impressions do to the mind. We need to learn how to manage the senses, which is the essence of pratyahara, so we are not creating toxicity at a sensory level. This fifth limb of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga is so important because it helps train us to withdraw our senses from the negative impressions and cultivate positive ones. Through the practice of pratyahara, we can also learn to connect to the inner sound and inner light and other higher forms of impressions.

Healing is not just a matter of what we do, but is often a matter of doing less. Yoga therapy is not necessarily about adding another therapy, another thing or more stress to further deplete our already depleted energy. Pratyahara is about learning to give proper rest to the nervous system. Our nervous system has been so stimulated that it doesn’t have time to shut down and we don’t get proper rest or sleep—even the ability of the mind and prana to rest gets lost…

Read the rest of this article in the Winter 2007 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine