As the summer drifts away, let us embrace the last few weeks of Yang energy before we lull into the Yin of winter. This has been a very active summer for me personally & I have gravitated towards gentle & yin styles of yoga, meditation & eating grounding foods. I have noticed a more exagerated whiplash to my health when I have veared off this track (creating a vata imbalance). The weather here in the northeast has been wild and extra active this summer as well. Last month we expereinced an earthquake, a hurricane and tornadoes (oh my) in one week and the wild weather has continued.
September is a natural time of renewal and reflection. Kids are returnning to school, the air and weather are shifting & we can take the time to reflect on our dharma & goals in our lives. Embrace the slow-down of the seasons as the year slowly winds down & we move slowly into the slumber of winter. It is a time to look within & contemplate all that we are.
Let’s begin this inward reflection with a practice of Pratyahara. This practice is 5th part of the 8 limbs of Classical Yoga. It is the practice of drawing in the energy of the energy senses. It is an often elusive and misunderstood limb.
It was three years ago around this time when I participated in a beach yoga retreat in Ocean City with my yoga teacher, Bob Butera. As part of a pratyahara exercise he had us sit on the beach with our eyes closed and tune in to the sound of the breaking waves. It was a powerful exercise to hear the roar of the ocean amplified in such a way. He asked us to listen to what the ocean had to say to us.
This is an exercise we can practice today, whether you’re at the beach or not. Close your eyes a draw your attention within. Now bring your attention to one thing – the sound of your breath, the stillness, and absorb what this has to offer you.
Another exercise you can do with pratyahara is during savasana. In corpse pose you are shedding the layers (sheaths) to attain a state of true peace and rest. It is the practice of pratyahara not to be distracted by wandering thoughts or the sound of the teacher walking around the room. You still hear sounds but no longer need to react to them.
This pause between stimulus and reaction can be carried out on and off the mat. You can pause before being critical of yourself in an asana just as you can pause before reacting to a person that typically causes you stress. With this practice let us take pause to reflect on the change of seasons and renew within ourselves.
Me taking a moment for reflection after a hike outside of Asheville, NC.