Pratyahara: Withdrawing to See More Clearly
Updated: Apr 6
As this time of global crisis continues, I keep thinking that I don't have anything to say that isn't being said everywhere else. We've all had weeks now of emails from every business we've ever visited, every email list we've ever subscribed to, and every publication we've ever read, each giving us their opinions, hot tips, and assurances that they're following the news and making decisions in real time, so who needs more? But then, engaging with all of you via classes and creating this way to stay connected is entirely what is keeping me sane as I negotiate the reality of the moment.
So here we are.
In planning one of this week's livestream classes, I began thinking about the ideas of isolation, aloneness, and solitude. In all of their forms and connotations, positive and negative and everything in between. I turned to Rilke, that paragon of statements on solitude; here are only a few, but it’s almost shocking how many mentions you can find within his works:
Your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes, far in the distance.
Solitude is like the rain
rising from the sea to meet the nightfall
from the dim far distant plain ...
Solitude falls like rain in that gray doubtful hour
when the streets all turn into dawn ...
But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.
In Yoga philosophy, one of the eight limbs of the yogic path is pratyahara. It’s been defined as "a naturally occurring uncoupling of sense organs from sense objects as awareness becomes interiorized." My brain cries out, What does that even meeean?! When practicing yoga asanas (the poses we move our bodies into and through), I think of pratyahara as a moving deeper within the space of the pose, withdrawing out of external stimulus and sense awareness and turning deeper into the internal experience of the moment. It is our link, our threshold, between our outer and inner worlds.