Updated: Apr 1
Are you lost in a constant loop of distraction?
Our modern lifestyle has us overloaded with information, and this intensified during the pandemic when social media was the only way for us to connect. This left us consistently caught up in social media scrolling loops and captivated by sensory activity, which is not always healthy for us.
You can probably relate to the fact that we might be doing this to escape the daily stresses of life, and the irony is that it’s probably making you more stressed out.
According to mentalhealth.org.uk, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the past year, that they reported feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope.
In this blog I will cover:
How can Pratyahara help you reduce stress?
Following on from the first 4 limbs of the 8 limb path, Yamas (ethical standards), Niyamas (self-observances), Asana (postures) and Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara is the 5th limb of yoga.
You could say that Pratyahara is the bridge between the first 4 limbs, your external environment, and the final 3 limbs, your internal environment. It’s no coincidence that Pratyahara is considered to be a precursor to your meditation practice.
"In its essence, Pratyahara means sense withdrawal."
Pratyahara is a practice that can take you on an expedition into your inner world. It is not something that you can simply do, but rather something that you intentionally implement into your daily life.
In its essence, Pratyahara means sense withdrawal. You could see it as sending your outward gaze or your “drishti” into your inner world. i.e. moving consciousness inward.
Sometimes the analogy of the turtle is used to explain Pratyahara. If you imagine a turtle, the head of the turtle is your mind and the shell of the turtle is your inner self, your consciousness.
When the turtle draws its head into its shell, only the world inside its shell exists and the external world it cut off. The same applies to your practice of Pratyahara, when you withdraw your mind to focus on your inner world; you connect deeper to the inner workings of your consciousness and set up the foundation for any meditation practices to follow.
With the overload of sensory information being thrown at you every minute of every day, you can probably see how taking a moment to quiet your mind and reduce your attention to this overload can help you to find some peace and ease.
Pratyahara acts as a tool for managing sensory impressions. The simplest way to achieve this is through meditation and to remove any distractions from your space, switch off electronic devices, and find a quiet space, this way cleansing and rejuvenating your mind.
Why should you practice Pratyahara?
We experience reality mostly through our senses (touch, smell, ect) through the practice of Pratyahara you withdraw your senses from external objects so that you no longer feel the need to react to stimuli or seek gratification through stimuli.
"Perhaps you use social media, food, music, or television to numb or distract yourself.".
So in other words, your external environment consistently affects you, and external events unconsciously control your thoughts, attention, and senses.
Perhaps you use social media, food, music, or television to numb or distract yourself. I know that I am guilty of this too. This is one of the reasons why I stated at the beginning of this blog that Pratyahara is not something that you can simply do, but rather something you intentionally have to implement into your daily life.
You have to actively choose to put your phone down and do your practice, or purposefully choose to pay attention to something, and this is not always easy.
Here are 3 great reasons to try out a Pratyahara practice today.
1. It prepares you for meditation
If you have ever tried to meditate and struggled to do so, it might be because you were not prepared or anchored to start a meditation practice. Pratyahara is a great way to prepare yourself for meditation, as you set your mind up to focus.
It is a step towards finding inner peace, as you are able to allow your mind a moment of ease from the never ending thought loops and overwhelm.
2. Steadiness and clarity
It brings you steadiness and clarity, which will allow you to deal with life’s challenges from a calm and centered place, who doesn’t want that?
3. It helps you shift habits
This is a great way for you to notice and shift habits that are not serving you or making your daily life more challenging. It allows you to start questioning why you do the things you do, become more aware of these tendencies and hopefully with a bit more mindfulness, create some shifts.
What does this mean to the every day person who wants to implement these kinds of practices into modern life? It means that you get to know yourself better, have healthier relationships with others and regulate your inner world for a steadier outer world experience.
Here are 3 simple practices that you can choose to implement today.
An easy way to get started is by making a note for yourself, perhaps in your calendar or diary to remind yourself to try at least one of these practices daily in order to find one that works for you.
3 practices of Pratyahara for modern living
The idea behind these practices is to observe what your senses are drawing your attention towards but trying not to react or dive deep into these sensations or feelings.
The scene that always comes to mind when thinking about sensory overload, is the scene from Mr Bean where the dripping tap keeps him awake. In the scene he allows his external environment to affect his internal world and this is indicative of how Pratyahara can assist you to withdrawn your senses.
When you notice the sound of the dripping tap as you’re trying to sleep, you are able to say to yourself, the tap is dripping but it does not affect your ability to sleep or rest. This is a simple example but helps to describe the idea behind Pratyahara.
1. Savasana Body Scan
Lay down in Savasana (lying on your back) and get yourself comfortable and warm. I usually do this practice to calm my mind and get myself to sleep, so feel free to do this as a way to wind down at the end of your day.
Start by noticing your breath and allow your breath to almost become your metronome, notice the depth and rhythm of your breath.
Now, mentally scan through your body, noticing any places where you might be holding tension or gripping, where there might be sensations of pain or discomfort, basically check in with your inner world.
If you find that your mind wonders, and it naturally will, come back to your breath as the anchor to holding your attention. You might find that you eventually “zone out” or rather into your inner world.
If you have ever practiced Yoga Nidra you might have experienced this inner world environment.
Click here to try a Yoga Nidra practice to get an idea or perhaps as a way to get started on your Pratyahara voyage.
2. Observe silence
Find a comfortable space at home and make yourself cozy. Perhaps wrap yourself in a blanket or surround yourself with pillows and remove all distractions from your surroundings. Switch off all electronic devices and take some time to simply observe the silence.
"Start small with 3 – 5 minutes of observing the silence..."
It is natural for this to be a challenging practice, especially if, like me, you are the type of person who enjoys having music on or the TV on in the background throughout your day. Start small with 3 – 5 minutes of observing the silence and work your way up to a time that is manageable and realistic for you.
Once again, you will find that your mind will naturally wonder and you can continue to use your breath as an anchor to hold your mind in the silence.
3. Mindfulness practices
Mindfulness is defined as focusing your mind on one thing at a time. Let’s take something that you do every day, brushing your teeth. The next time you brush your teeth, notice how your body and senses react to the sensation of this action.
"Checking and curbing the outgoing tendencies of the mind so that awareness can be directed inward."
Engage all your senses. Notice the feeling and sound on each tooth, notice the taste of the toothpaste, the smell of the toothpaste, the colours that you see, and notice how you feel after you have taken these few minutes to focus on one thing.
Alternatively, you can practice mindfulness in your every day life by checking in with how external situations affect your internal world. How do you participate in your outer world and what do you do when external stimuli affects your inner peace?
Checking and curbing the outgoing tendencies of the mind so that awareness can be directed inward.
I encourage you to try at least one of these practices whenever you are ready to do so. The idea is not to be perfect at any of them but rather to find one that works for you and to maintain a constant practice. T
here is not right or wrong way to do this, and just know that it is a lifelong practice to be nurtured and developed..
As always I am here if you have any questions.
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“Entice the senses inward by invoking a gentle light or flame, the sound of your heartbeat, the fragrance of roses, the sweetness of saliva, or a feeling of well-being. Find ways to see, hear, and feel beauty in the delicate world within. As the outward senses are calm, meditation becomes effortless.”
Love and Light