Pratyahara is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga from the Yoga Sutras. It is the linchpin between working with the outer physical world and going to the more inner, subtle senses. This is relevant to both Ayurveda and Shamanism.
For Ayurveda, it works at awakening to the Atman, the Highest Self. This is the source of Truth, Light, and Love. It supports a sattvic mind, leading to better lifestyle choices.
For Shamanism, developing our inner senses allows us to sense the subtle Upper, Middle, and Lower Worlds. This allows us to bring more information back to this world.
The first steps to Pratyahara involve learning how to properly deal with relationships. These are the first limb – the Yamas and Niyamas.
Yamas focus on our behavior and thoughts towards others.
- Ahimsa is non-harming, non-violence. It is being loving and compassionate.
- Satya is truthfulness and honesty.
- Astya is non-stealing. We develop healthy interchange with others. This means not just avoiding thievery, but also avoiding being a taker or user without giving back somehow.
- Bramacharya is moderation of the outer senses. This means controlling your sensual cravings and addictions.
- Aparigraha is non-hoarding. We avoid unnecessary materialism and selfishness around sharing our time and energy with the world.
Niyamas help us learn to maintain a positive environment and develop self-discipline and inner strength.
- Saucha is purity and cleanliness. This involves physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
- Santosa is contentment. Learning to accept and enjoy what is now.
- Tapas is heat or fire of practice. Using our best efforts even when we don’t want to develops the discipline needed for deep inner work.
- Svadhyaya is self study. We contemplate ourselves– mind and body – to find our own truths.
- Ishvara Pranidhana is surrender to Higher Self. We may surrender to Nature, a personal god or the higher self as spiritual practice.
Asana is another limb of yoga. As a spiritual practice it is more than poses. It liberally means “to sit calmly.” Through asana we become aware of our bodies, emotions, and minds. We become healthy, balanced, calm and disciplined enough for further inner work. Prana – the life energy- can where we put our attention. Asana helps us become aware of our whole body. It also releases stuck areas that inhibit the flow of prana.
Pranayama is meant to allow prana to circulate freely through our body-emotion-mind- spirit system. It is opening up to allow the flow to happen. Being able to sit (or live) calmly and allow our prana to nourish every cell, give us the energy and safety to move on to pratyahara.
Pratyahara can happen when the prana flows. We need to be in a safe place in the external world. Then we can practice opening up and strengthening our internal sense organs. Next blog, we’ll delve more into the practice.
I highly recommend the Pratyahara class by Dr Claudia Welch and Dr Robert Svoboda
Part 2 will delve into more about developing Pratyahara