Inner Yoga - Written by Bruce Burger
You would probably never hear the words “Pratyhara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi” mentioned in a yoga class. And if you did, you would ask, “Is this something I should know?”
“Definitely” my reply.
Knowing this would dynamically expand the way you experience your world and dramatically enhance the quality of your life! Pratyhara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi (PDDS) are four Sanskrit words which describe the 4 stages of INNER YOGA.
Just as “outer yoga” makes you feel good, “inner yoga” gives you the deep peace of feeling free. The following narrative is a simple description of the practice, which I hope will inspire you to give it a try.
We all have experienced the irritation and frustration of a slow internet connection. It always leaves us tense and angry. It’s caused by a limited bandwidth - I.e. only a little information trickles through at a time. So that we are typically left feeling frustrated with the computer.
Thus it is with our lives and the way we experience the world through our 5 senses. Typically only one sense dominates at a time and almost certainly that sense is already subject to an internal filter (a preference or a prejudice) distorting our perception even more. Leading us to be tense and angry on a subconscious level without knowing why.
Imagine what would happen if you could remove the filters of distortion and experience the full spectrum of the world equally balanced through all 5 of the senses simultaneously? The result is much like using the internet with fibre operating at its full bandwidth! Imagine the feeling of ease? This is like Pratyhara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi (PDDS), seemingly complicated and strange Sanskrit words describing simple and clear steps of inner yoga to achieve a perfectly balanced full spectrum earthly experience.
Most people have a pre-conceived idea that yoga is either a leg stretch or a hot sweat. I call this physical yoga. However this is a narrow belief of what yoga is. In truth, Yoga is a systematic and expansive practice of using physical, breath, and mental practices together to break through the prison walls of limited egoic mind-sets in order to expand into a full spectrum bandwidth way of living.
My feeling is that people are put off some aspects of yoga by big and complicated Sanskrit terms, e.g. PDDS. But should we give it a try? Will the effort be worth it? Yes! Most definitely yes!
Instead of using those complicated words, let’s instead say PDDS is internal yoga practice. And that a complete yoga practice is the harmony experienced by balancing external yoga (apparent stretching and twisting to some people) with internal yoga (PDDS).
Now the complicated is actually simple.
Yoga tells us that there are two worlds, our external world (covered by outer yoga) and our internal world (covered by inner yoga), and we need to harmonize both to find perfect balance leading to peace. This makes logical sense, but we first need to get to know both and understand both before they can be balanced.
However, how can we know the external to be true if we have not examined and got to know our inner being first? Half a job (e.g. physical yoga only) is actually no job at all and Yoga emphasizes this.
“Know thyself” and you will know the world. This is inner yoga. Most people don’t know themselves and therefore don’t know the world, so are “non-conscious” while “alive.” Inner yoga is the practice of conscious awakening to a full, non-filtered and balanced experience, internally and then externally.
Yoga tells us to observe our 5 senses, how they operate and how they create disturbances of the mind which create all sorts of actions and re-actions and therefore disturb the world around us and also within us.
This is the start of inner-yoga practice and is the basis of Pratyahara or Sense Mastery.
The practice is simple, sit comfortably, initially with your eyes closed, create an awareness, be mindful, observe your experience of how your senses dart here, then there. Then slowly expand the skill of awareness of senses, until the 5 senses no longer distort and enslave the thinking mind, a state of being mindful of the impermanence of things. Once your skills improve, try to draw all of your awareness internally to self. This takes considerable practice. You will know you have mastery of senses.
Then take inner-yoga deeper, and attend to the mind itself, examining and understanding that a disturbed mind is a scattered mind that cannot achieve much.
This is the basis for the next two stages of inner yoga, the DD or Dharana, Dhyana in Sanskrit. This is the practice of concentrating a scattered mind, in order to develop determined focus without any distraction, so that the mind becomes very powerful like a laser (so that it can “cut through” the miss-knowing of the idea of life. This allows the deeper inner yoga of Meditation (Dhyana) to begin, which is a process of “weakening” the previously mentioned prejudices and preferences, so that the mind is stimulated less and less. It sounds difficult, I would be lying if I said it was easy. However, modern medicine (as did ancient yoga) tells us that the mind is like a muscle that can be exercised, just like working out our body at a gym, all it takes is training, and little by little, we can achieve much.
The practice is simple in concept and easy to try. Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed, create an awareness, become mindful, and observe your experience of how the senses operate, settle the senses, and gently focus them internally. Then allow your mind to empty of thoughts, emotions, images, sensations. Once your mind starts to stabilise and become calm, start to focus internally on an “Internal Space.” In this example, the space between your eyebrows, and simply observe that space, without distraction, first 1 minute, then 5, maybe more. This is Dharana. The ability to focus without any (mental) distraction.
Once you are comfortable with a few minutes, shift to 10, 15 minutes, or longer. Success in Dhyana, means that the mind is finally stable, and not scattered. It is now laser-like, and not diffuse, capable of the internal discrimination of purifying (releasing or letting go) the prejudices and preferences that caused the tension, instability and disharmony in the first place. It’s a continuous process, because as we live, so we take on more issues that we again need to purify and release.
The final stage of inner yoga is called Samadhi, one-ness, balance, or equanimity, which is the peaceful process of finally emptying or releasing all of the obstacles, prejudices, preferences that cause inner noise, so that we can expand the experience of perfect emptiness through compassion into a perfectly balanced fullness-of-life which is called YOGA – a way of being.
This final stage of grounding in inner yoga, and expanding to outer yoga, happens by grace alone. It happens naturally, only once sufficient internal and external work has been done to create a compassion-based external world and an internal world completely free of preference and prejudice, we are then open to acceptance without any filter. The outcome is the full spectrum of outer life “as it is.”
The good news is that you don’t have to worry about the seemingly complicated Sanskrit words or yoga steps. You don’t even have to worry about Sanskrit words or even PDDS. All you have to do is find a good teacher, and then dedicate your efforts to a consistent yoga practice. And be willing to try the exercises in your own time.
Be patient, but be determined, so that gently and slowly, yoga can work its apparent magic, nudging you closer and closer to a space where you are at peace with yourself and at peace with the world, experiencing everything as it is, awakened from your slumber, and finally fully conscious and alive to the full spectrum bandwidth of this earthly life. It will happen. Good luck.
May all beings be free!
Written by Bruce Burger.
"Before Yoga, I led a professional corporate life. In 2006 I studied Reiki at the Reiki Master Level and then in 2007 Mindfulness Meditation, and so began my journey into conscious living, eventually leading to Yoga. First studying Vinyasa Yoga (ERYT200) at Living Yoga and then studying Jivamukti Yoga (Certified 300 Hours), under guidance of my yoga teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life, of Jivamukti Yoga NYC."