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Pratyahara: The art of turning inward


The art of turning inward

Last week was the first time I had stepped on my yoga mat in months.  As you may know, this summer and autumn, I haven't been feeling well.  My body made it known that it would like to rest.  My muscles turned wild.  My throat became heavy and my hands became like static.  As a yoga teacher, my daily practice is something that used to keep me grounded.  It is sacred for me to move my body, to flow, to twist and turn upside-down.

When I formed my first downward dog of my practice last week, I nearly cried.  My teacher led me through postures, and my body was so thankful for each breath and movement.  I may have paused in child's pose more often than usual, but I made it through a full class.

It was pure bliss.

I admit that I had been hard on myself for not unrolling my mat in months, for staying still, for looking elsewhere for my spiritual practice.

But then I realized:  I had been practicing yoga all along.

Right now I am developing one of my upcoming Tarot Intensives: The Major Arcana and the Eight-Limbed Path.  You see, yoga isn't just asana, or the formation of postures with the body that you usually picture when you think of yoga studios.

There is so much more to yoga than movement on your mat.  There are seven other aspects, in fact.  I won't get into all of them here, but instead I will focus on one that has been calling out to me lately.  The word has been getting stuck in my head so much that I can't ignore it anymore:


Pratyahara is the art of turning inward.  It is Drawing Within, it is the Hermit.  In its fullest defintion, Pratyahara is a withdrawal of the senses.  In pure Pratyhara, one releases the acknowledgement of smell, taste, sight, sound, and touch.

Am I there, fully?  No.  But I'm practicing in small ways.  I'm releasing.  I'm focusing inward.  I'm aware of my breath, of what is going on inside of me.  I close my eyes and gaze at my third eye.  I open up my inner eye and see a world that my two other eyes cannot.  I travel within myself. 

I am in no way a master, instead, I am a student of this practice, a student of my own body.

Today I invite you to take some time to practice your own version of Pratyahara.  What can you learn from your inner world?  It's gorgeous there, I promise.

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Get a different perspective

I've been thinking about the power of yoga lately.

I opened up my moleskine and grabbed my pink staedtler fineliner pen (there's something luscious about truly enjoying journaling materials) and so much was there, waiting to be said.

I want to share with you the good stuff:

Sometimes you get stuck in a rut.  Sometimes it's so easy to complain, to compare, to worry, to feel vulnerable and desperate.  Sometimes you feel like you are pulling twice your weight through the mud.  Sometimes it seems like everyone else is moving forward with ease except for you.

That's when it's time to get upside down.

Why?  Because thinking like that sucks, to be blunt.  Who wants to think like that?  What good does it serve?  It for sure does not serve you.  What you need is a little movement, a little shift. 

Get upside down.  Flip your perspective.  Create the shift for yourself.  Because you have the power to change your mind. 

When you change your mind, when you see things in a different way, when you find the gratitude and the joy in all moments of life -- that's when things get good.  That's when things get juicy.

For example, let's say you have a goal.  You wanted to reach that goal by the end of the month.  It's almost mid-way through the month and you are not there yet.  You might get cranky about it.  You might start to feel bad.  You might start to doubt. 

That's when you need to flip it (and maybe flip it off).

Instead of feeling doubt, what can you celebrate?  What can you change?  What can you be proud of, in this moment?  Who can you call or turn to to help you to see things in a different light? Maybe just *setting* the goal was the achievement, regardless of whether you reach it or not.  It's the thought.  It's the idea.  You've got to plant the seed and nurture it.  Sometimes seeds grow when they want to, but we need to love and tend to them all the same.  Let them bloom when they will, but keep doing the work, trusting that the plant will grow when it's ready.

& sometimes it's damn hard to be patient.

But you've got this.  I know it.

So, the getting upside down part physically is not necessary for this shift in perspective to work.  But it really helps me.  If headstand isn't your thing, find a wall.  Sit down in front of the wall, and then lay down on the floor while you swing your legs up against the wall.  Wiggle until your bottom is close to where the wall and the floor meet.  Viola!  Legs up the wall pose helps to calm the nervous system AND gets you upside down.  It's win-win.

So tell me:  what helps you to shift your perspective?

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