An Introduction to the Preyas

April 7th, 2012

yoga certificationBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500 

Preyas is a Sanskrit term that refers to temporary or transient pleasures that ultimately bind a soul. Preyas come in many forms. Examples of some pleasurable preyas may be a rich meal, the attachment to worldly luxuries, and drug addiction. All of these examples are very pleasurable in the short term but have negative consequences in the long term. If you consistently eat a rich diet, with a lot of saturated fat, there is a strong possibility that you may develop cardiac problems in the future. In the same way, if you are overly attached to worldly luxuries, when you no longer have access to those luxuries, you will suffer. Of course, we are all familiar with the tragic path of drug addiction. The initial high of a drug, such as cocaine, can bring euphoria and self-confidence, but the physical and psychological dependency that can develop over time creates a prison of its own. 

If you consider the role of preyas in a Yoga asana practice, your awareness of your moment-to-moment choice of what is pleasurable over what is beneficial will become quite apparent. Take the example of the practice of the series of Warrior Poses. Do you bend your extended knee to a ninety-degree angle, or do you “fudge” a little bit and only bend your knee to a seventy-five degree angle? In other words, do you go as deeply and vigorously into the Warrior Poses as you are able to, or do you take the more temporarily pleasurable and easy way through the series by not working as hard in the poses as you are able to? This is an example of choosing the route of short-term pleasure, or preyas, over long term gain.

On a more internal note, it is also possible during Yoga practice to not apply yourself as vigorously as possible to the dharana, or one-pointed focus of the practice, by letting your mind wander during Yoga class. In the moment, this may feel more pleasurable than reigning in your “monkey mind” and focusing only on applying yourself to your practice. In the long run, your Yoga practice may not deepen as quickly and profoundly as it would have if you diligently applied yourself to the internal discipline of focusing on the asanas, and your work in the asanas, to the exclusion of other pleasurable thoughts. Becoming aware of the subtle choices you make that favor the preyas will support you in clearly evaluating the consequences of the pleasurable activities you are pursuing.

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