My daughter was at my mom's house, my husband was at work, so I decided to do some Christmas shopping! I noticed how unaccustomed to busy shopping hours I've become, and how simple breathing techniques and the term "pratyahara" continued to bring me back to peace and happiness.
Pratyahara means "withdrawal of the senses." It is one of the eight limbs of yoga, and one that is often overlooked... perhaps labeled unattainable, or as a "not yet" tenant of yoga. Ultimately, in the practice of pratyahara, all of the senses are drawn inward so that the yogi remains unaffected by the goings-on in the world around her. It is a step toward meditation and enlightenment.
Pratyahara can be practical. It may not lead to sudden enlightenment in this practical sense, but it can keep us sane and joyful during one of the busiest times of the year!
How to use Pratyahara in "the real world"
- Someone walks into the yoga studio 5 minutes after your yoga class has begun. Your child's pose bliss has been ruined! OR, you carry on with your own breathing, your own experience, and let go of the drama that has been stirred up inside of you when someone walked in late.
- Someone is extreme couponing in line in front of you and you are more than ready to get out of the store. How irritating that this person is getting in your way of doing what you want to do next. OR, you stand in line and watch in amazement as his bill goes from almost $400 to $150 and you practice your breathing and your ability to stay present. You remember how fortunate you are to be standing in this line to make purchases in the first place.
- Two ladies have been rolling around the store in those motorized scooters making a big deal of how the scooters keep running out of juice. Then they block the exit of the store while sorting out the items that they purchased. Annoying? Sure. You can let it annoy you, or you can take a deep breathe and smile at them, and sneak past without a care in the world.
Pratyahara is the practice of remaining equanimous no matter what annoyances or disturbances might surround you. It is the practice of being laid back. Of maintaining inner peace regardless of what others might be doing. It isn't easy, but it sure comes in handy when you feel like having a nice day!