I recently returned to karate after a 10-year break (brought on by injury and time raising little kiddos.) A friend asked what made me go back. There were a few things. I am stronger and I have more freedom now that my boys are older. These were definite factors. But the deeper reason is that I feel more like myself when I am doing karate. It is like that with yoga too.
I was trying to figure out what it is that makes me feel so me-like when I do these practices. Karate and yoga share many similarities that draw me in. They are both paths to being the best you can be. They require you move your body in challenging ways and yet remain present.
The term “being present” is thrown around a lot these days. But I think it is about letting go of whatever else is going on in your life and focusing on the here and now. A physical practice that requires focus can give your frenetic mind a break. This might just let the real you shine through.
There are many ways to turn inward. But for me, it starts with inhabiting and feeling my physical body.
What is pratyahara?
Pratyahara is the fifth of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga. Nischala Joy Devi describes it as “Encouraging the senses to draw inward.”
By eliminating distractions, you begin to see that everything you need is within you. That you already have the capacity for happiness, fulfillment and greatness. You just need to uncover it.
Tips for turning inward
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, autumn is a time of Yin. Yin energy is all about grounding and turning inward. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, autumn is a time of Yin. Yin energy is all about grounding and turning inward. As we say goodbye to the unbridled energy of summer and welcome the contemplative nature of fall, now is an ideal time to foster pratyahara.
1. Take time each day to be quiet.
This could be a short, uncomplicated five-minute mediation. Or maybe find a sunny spot outside to sit and absorb the sun (I just did this mmmmm delicious!)
2. Practice forward folds.
Butterfly (Baddha Konasana) is one of my favorites. I find it even more relaxing if my forehead is touching something. Since I am not usually flexible enough to get it to my toes, a block or bolster does the trick.
3. Do one thing at a time.
Instead of multi-taksing (I’m guilty) try giving your attention to only one thing at a time. So while making dinner, forget about checking your email, writing a yoga blog and talking to your mom on the phone. Give your full attention to the task at hand.
4. Do Yin yoga.
Treat yourself to a gorgeously quiet, contemplative practice. Here are a few to try:
Do something that requires physical exertion. Sometimes this makes it impossible to really be anywhere but where you are! Run, take a brisk walk, go for a bike ride or play whatever sport you are into. And get into it with all of your being. In psychology, this is called a state of flow. You become completely absorbed in whatever you are doing.
How do you create pratyahara? Is there something that allows you to eliminate distractions and focus inward?
Image courtesy of GPS