If you are new to yoga you probably haven’t heard of Pratyahara. It means “Tuning out Sensory Input” and is one of the 8 main components of yoga. Tuning out, and by doing so we tune in. This is where your yoga teacher is always directing you to focus on your breath. Close your eyes feel the outside world fade from your awareness.
I like to think of this as walking into a dark silent room. At first there is nothing distinguishable that you can see or hear. As you spend time there, wait, and as your eyes become accustomed to the darkness you begin to be able to “see” better. You are literally tuning out the senses and tuning into something bigger.
As you settle, sometimes you resist the quiet stillness, your mind still poking you with questions:
Why is this taking so long? I am too busy for this? etc.
AND it can feel wonderful, soothing, and inviting.
Our outside world is full of noise, stimulus, fast paced action, sound, and constant activity. It is no doubt the biggest demand of our attention. Our inner world is just as fascinating; it just operates on a more subtle level that is often drowned out by what is happening on the outside.
So closing our eyes, breathing deep, allowing ourselves a set timer, or length of a class to let the outside noise settle away, is the practice of Pratyahara. We metaphorically allow ourselves time to walk into the dark room of our own being and spend time tuning in to the messages that come from the inside. There is a lot of wisdom here. Yogic philosophy would say that the divine voice is heard, that when you live from this place of personal truth you can never be lead astray. The reward is always waiting, in the very least:
Priorities become clearer.
Our body feels settled.
Our mind feels clear and able to focus.
Our multi-tasking/busy/rushed/distracted feelings disappear.
Calmness settles in.
When we get good at this, our practice can take us there daily, and our breath can take us there in a just a few cycles. Calm, grounded, steady. Sure of ourselves and our priorities. It is a really nice place to live from.
This is my favourite side effect of my practice right now.
I purposefully build in this “tuning out to tune in” into every practice that I do for myself or share with others. Seeking this side effect has me hooked; I am getting addicted to Calm. It certainly is a superpower.