Pratyahara: Meditation and Breathwork for a Deep Inner-Journey

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I want to talk about Pratyahara and offer a helpful breathing practice to accompany it. First I feel I need to give it a little context.

Yoga 101

Yoga is old. One of the earliest mentions of yoga comes from the Rig Veda, one of the oldest vedic texts dating somewhere around 1700–1100 BC. So, OLD.

Patanjali was a yoga scholar (some say a school of thought—doesn’t matter) around 200–500 CE who wrote a generalized guide to yoga called The Yoga Sutras. Sutra is a Saskrit word meaning suture or stitch. The Yoga Sutras are therefore 196 verses “stitched” together in order to create a larger patchwork of what yoga’s main goal is and how to practice it.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali starts by defining yoga as the ability to calm the mind into stillness to arrive at a state of Oneness with all things. He outlines 8 limbs of yoga or ways to practice arriving at this Oneness. These 8 limbs are presented from gross to subtle ways to practice yoga.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

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The first limb is the Yamas or outward observances, the way we treat the world. If we’re assholes to everyone around us, we’re missing the essential point that somehow I’m everything and only hurting myself.

Second is Niyamas, or inner observances, the way I treat my inner comportment, my cleanliness, contentment, and ability for self-discovery through work and submission.

Third comes yoga Asanas, or the poses, how literally applying this knowledge to the body, mind, and spirit of my personal being and attempting to discover the unification of all of these. This is what most of us refer to when we think of yoga. That’s fine—you don’t have to start practicing at the beginning—whatever gets you onto the path.

Fourth, Pranayama refers to how this work affects one’s energy through breathwork and other energy manipulation through the chakras, or primary energy stations located along our spine.

Fifth, and this is what I want to talk about most today, come Pratyahara or gaining control over external influences and learning to withdraw from our senses as the entrance into the inner-being.

Photo by  Alex Adams

Photo by Alex Adams

Sixth is Dharana, or fixed concentration on one thing.

Seventh, Dhyana, deeper concentration where you begin to lose your sense of individuality and the object you’re observing start to merge.

Lastly the eights limb is Samadhi, or the state of Oneness.

So now you’ve got probably more information than you need about yoga philosophy and ancient texts, what does this Pratyahara business have to do with me?

If you’ve ever tried meditating, you’ve likely tried at least a few ways of meditating and discovered one or two ways that really help you to go deep into your meditation, where something begins to happen and we start to get that meditation hit that everyone is talking about. In part, this ability to go deeper into ourselves starts with Pratyahara.

The senses are a wonderful tools of cultivating presence. Paying attention to our senses help us wrangle in our wild and wandering mind to a state that is here and now. We’ve used our senses perhaps with the “There Is” Practice or similar practices. However, getting stuck into this mode of paying attention to what is outside maintains external attention and might prevent a deeper inner-journey. So, learning to move beyond our senses inward to a state of raw here-and-now-ness may deepen your meditation practice.

Your senses are always firing and constantly giving the brain information. In fact, there’s so much information happening all the time, that our brains have to learn to filter and select what is essential and what it can turn off. Pratyahara experiments with learning to turn ALL the senses off to find a state of deeper inner-awareness on our pathway to discover that the answers are within instead of outside of us.

To to practice Pratyahara start by listening to your senses and then go inward beyond them.


Breathing Practice to Complement Pratyahara

Here’s a breathing practice followed by a meditation that can help you with just this

Brahmari: Bumble Bee Breath

Brahmari breath is kinda weird so bear with me. What you do is sit, close your eyes, and place your hands on your face with your index fingers over your eyebrows, your middle fingers covering your eyes, fourth fingers just below your nostrils, and little fingers under your lips. Your fourth and fifth fingers therefore create a cradle around your mouth. Your thumbs gently plug your ears. This closes all the exits, except your nostrils. Now, you release your pinkies to take in a big breath through your mouth, replace your pinkies and close your mouth and let out a long hum until you have no more breath. When you’re empty, breathe in again and do another round. Continue for several rounds. Have fun with this: try high pitches, low pitches, make up little tunes— whatever. Ideally, you’ll drown out all other senses except the sound of your own humming in your head.

You may also choose to omit the crazy hands-to-face business and use earplugs and an eye mask—less adventurous but probably just as effective.

This practice will confirm to your neighbors peeping through the windows that yes, you finally have gone nuts and that they should probably look for another neighborhood. Better just to have some private space to do this.

After several minutes of this, keep your eyes closed and choose a meditation that cultivates a strong internal focus, something like mantra meditation or mindfulness meditation.

I might suggest using the Insight Timer and setting your timer for 20 minutes using an interval bell to ding after 5 minutes. Do the Brahmari breath for 5 minutes and after the interval bell dings, try a mantra or mindfulness meditation for the remaining 15 minutes.

This will be a great 20 minute practice to really cultivate inner-focus.

If you’re curious, give this a shot and let me know how it goes.

Kauai Yoga

31-Day Meditation Challenge: Your Most Most Incredible 2019 Starts With This!

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Christmas is Over, Now What?

Meditation

You’ve indulged. You overate, you overdrank . . . and might just be feeling in sum: over it. Hopefully these next few days before the new year can be quiet and simple. Consider my up coming 31-Day Meditation Challenge.



The week between Christmas and New Years is actually a very special time. It’s that dead-of-winter time where you get to hibernate, meditate, and plant the seeds for what will live for you in the new year. What are you visualizing for 2019?



Power of Visualization

I have a faith in visualization that borders on religious—religious, because it work miracles, both in my life as well as the lives of millions of other people. My belief is simple: If you can see it, you can live into it.



Modern neuroscience agrees with me. Scientists say that the brain does not differentiate well between the images it translates through the eyes versus what it translates via thoughts, images, or ideas. Think about watching a thrilling movie— your heart pounds and your hands sweat, though your rational mind knows they are merely images on a screen.



This proposes a provocative idea: if your brain can’t differentiate well between reality and other images, why not visualize your ideal life and enjoy the feeling of success now? Speaking of seeing is believing, my wife has brilliantly constructed images set to music that reflect her ideal life using “mind movie” software, which she watches on a nearly daily basis to see where she’s directing her life.



Just like countless world-class athletes have shown, visualizing yourself succeed floods your system with all those feel-good and excitement chemicals like Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin, just like if you had recently accomplished your dreams. It makes you perform at your peak. Plus, since seeing is believing, visualizing yourself succeed shuts off the amygdala, the part of your brain that puts the brakes on doing scary things like jumping out of airplanes, risking talking to your boss about a raise, or hell, quitting that soul-sucking job once and for all and stretching yourself to do that thing you’ve always dreamed of doing. In short, when you see yourself succeed, you live into your vision of it.


This is because you are truly more powerful than you can imagine. Most likely, the biggest thing holding you back from experiencing your own innate magnificence is your lack of vision for it. Do you ever get comfortable with “good enough,” lose your sense of purpose, or busy yourself so much as to distract your mind from what it truly makes you feel alive?



Well if so, starting today, that’s going to change. I invite you to join me for a revolutionary, 31-day meditative journey that gives you the tools and the support to visualize and live into your own magnificent life.


31-Day Meditation Challenge

We’ll start together on New Years Day with a guided and vivid visualization of what your incredible life looks and feels like. This meditation will relax your body and put your mind into a flow state that boosts your creativity, optimizes your learning, and inspires your productivity to work toward the fulfillment of your dreams. Then, for the the entire month of January, you’ll meditate every day for 15 minutes a day. You’ll regularly revisit your visualization for the year as well as use any other form of meditation you like.



Once you register, you’ll get all the details for how the challenge works as well as information about several styles of meditation you can choose to do in addition to our New Year Visualization.


If you’re new to meditation, no problem. You’ll love this. If you’re an experienced meditator, great. We can use your meditation muscles to bolster the spirit of our group. Either way, this will be a fantastic opportunity to join a group of people all over the world benefitting the world with greater mindfulness. All month I’ll be sending you regular emails that offer instruction, support, and encouragement.



This will be fun, easy, and the perfect way to start 2019.


This 31-Day Meditation Challenge will also bless the lives of the people around you. In addition to visualizing an incredible life in 2019, regular meditation will also:

Yoga Nidra Meditation

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  • Lower your stress levels

  • Decrease your reactivity

  • Increase your mindful responsiveness

  • Improve your sleep

  • Reaffirm your sense of purpose

  • Give you personal and spiritual insight

  • Improve your overall happiness


Do this for yourself. Do this for those privileged (or not so privileged on those off days) to live around you.


This costs only $31. And guess what, if you complete the challenge, you may opt to GET. YOUR. MONEY. BACK. (drop the mic).


Please join today and share bless the world with a more-mindful YOU. Please share this with anyone who would benefit.


Happy New Year!


Meditation
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