By Audrey Villanueva
Go inward, bring the outside in. This is a big part of the yoga practice. The winter season is a perfect time for inward reflection. Hibernation is nature moving inward toward the pineal gland, an acorn shaped endocrine gland located in the middle of the two hemispheres of the brain. In energy anatomy terms, the pineal gland is the "Third Eye" that modulates waking and sleeping patterns and other seasonal functions. Balasana, child's pose, is an excellent way to access the inward journey through the 3rd Eye Chakra or 6th Chakra. This chakra controls the various bio-rhythms of the body, and when it wakens, one may feel a pressure at the base of the brain. The 3rd Eye relates to clear seeing and intuition. By learning to focus your consciousness and trust what you see, the yoga practice may deepen and the ability to draw inward becomes more available.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali refers to the inward journey through its discussion of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. The Yoga Sutras explain the eightfold path and define it as Ashtanga, which literally means "eight-limbs." Pratyahara, the 5th Limb, is to withdrawal from the five senses or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and it's stimuli in order to focus on the inward journey. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. This allows us to objectively observe our cravings: habits that are perhaps detrimental to our health and which likely interfere with our inner growth. This sets the stage for deeper concentration and helps relieve us from outside distractions thereby bringing the Outside - In.
Moving inward by visualizing the middle of the brain-pineal gland-3rd Eye facilitates pratyahara practice. The winter season when, naturally the rhythm is to hibernate, is an ideal time to move deeper into the practice of slowing down into self-awareness, self-study, and self-discovery. By stimulating the 3rd Eye in poses such as Balasana we can attune ourselves to the body's natural rhythms and allow life to flow more simply by letting go of old habits and patterns that hold one back from moving onward, upward, and inward.