The practice of Pratyhara

Karin-2

Have you ever felt like hiding from the world? Maybe you felt like closing your eyes and pulling a blanket over your head. Or perhaps just not talking for a while, enjoying some silence. And perhaps you thought you were being anti-social by not wanting to engage with the world. We all need a dose of solitude at some point to re-energize ourselves. My ‘tell’ is when I don’t want to put in my ear buds to listen to music as I walk, when normally I love music!

In yoga philosophy, the concept of pratyhara translates as a removal or a control of the senses. We experience the world through our senses and that sensory feedback can be rich and exciting but can also be overwhelming. To calm our nervous system, to give our senses a break from the onslaught of stimulation from sources such as smartphones or social media, we can practice pratyhara.

Think of pratyhara as sensory fasting, sensory deprivation that you are in control of. You are not likely going to go sit in a cave for a few months like an ancient yogi but you can refresh your senses in your own way. This might include simply closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. Longer practices include silent retreats or could be just a few hours of not talking to anyone.

I’m excited for the sensory deprivation chamber that is set to open in Victoria shortly. This experience would be one way to practice turning inward and giving the senses a break. But turning inward does not have to cost money or involve a float tank. Turn off your cell phone for a few hours. Go for a walk or run without music. Cut out sugar for a week and give your taste buds a rest. Your personal sensory fasting practices can take on many forms.

After a practice of turning inward, which might have lasted 10 seconds or 10 days, with restored senses you can soak up all that the world has to offer.

 

words by Karin Sarnblom, photos by Ilijc Albanese

 

See more photos here

 

originally published in analogue magazine’s May 2014 issue