We at the Juicery, we love a good detox. Have you read our Hayley's cleanse diaries? It serves as a way reset, restart, and reboot our system and senses. If only we could do this with life itself? According to this ancient yogic principle, we can (and we should). Actually, this technique is one step ahead of the detox as we know it. Pratayara is a somewhat preventive way to train how we perceive through our senses, and take care of the collective overstimulation that haunts us all.
David Frowly, western teacher and guru of the vedic tradition, explains it this way: “just as the digestive system gets short-circuited by irregular eating habits and contrary food qualities, our ability to digest impressions can be derranged by jarring or excessive consumptions. And just as improving our digestion may require going on a fast, our mental digestion may require a period of fasting from impressions”.
Pratyahara stands for a way to ‘shut down our senses’, so we become non-reactive to any form of external stimuli - objects, people, dynamics. It is one of the eight traditional yogic limbs, and in that, almost overlooked. Without this practice, however, trying to calm your mind through any kind of (spiritual) tool is like trying to collect water into a leaking tub.
As Patanjali, the person who wrote first about those limbs, the sutra's, arguably the most important ancient text written in yogic history, himself puts it: “Under ordinary circumstances, the senses serve experience rather than realization. That is, they are the medium through which the self identifies with experience and seeks happiness in the external objects that produce it, while forming attachments and aversions to the objects found there. Pratyahara, withdrawel of the senses, reverses this.”
Bringing awareness to this principle is actually the biggest vehicle. When you become the quiet observer of your response to stimuli, you no longer identify with this process, and you magically become more present and calm. Through mastering Pratyahara, you will become more clear, energized, and it will balance your nervous system. How we can further apply this into our lives? Here are 3 examples:
1. Focus on neutrals
Nature, baby. This can be by zooming in, by focussing on your breath, or subtle bodily sensations like wind or sunlight, as well as by zooming out, looking up at the sky, grounding down on grass fields or at the beach. Feel, see, smell, touch.
2. Strengthen your shield
Love always wins. Positive impressions through affirmations and loving thoughts are a very effective way to make sure you are less fragile when picking up and being effected by externals.
3. Find inner stillness
At least one moment of stillness a day is an essential. This can be through movement, meditation, or visualization. Important is to find your own rhythm here, so even if that is a simple ritual of having a cup of tea in silence every morning, if it works for you, it's perfect.