In Ayurveda there is a concept called pratyahara. The word comes from prati meaning ‘against’ and ahara meaning ‘food’ (or anything that we take into ourselves). Pratyahara means taking control of outside influences. In a noisy and busy world, it is easy to feel sensory overwhelm – physical, emotional and mental imbalance from the continuous input. We are surrounded by input – books, computers, phones, television, and small children needing snacks! These sensory impressions are the food for our mind. You know how you feel after one too many cinnamon buns? Too much sensory input (or a constant diet of junk food for the mind) can make us feel ill at ease, on edge. It’s easy to get lost in the noise, feeding fear and emotional dis-ease. If you’ve been feeling that prickly, nervous feeling, there are things you can do to release the stress and reset your nervous system. We can all benefit from regularly unplugging and managing input. For true, deep healing, we need to move our body and mind into rest – into pratyahara.
Like all the tools of Ayurveda, pratyahra is a practice that can – and should – be tailored for the unique individual.
Those with a Vata constitution (you can discover more about your dosha here) should make an effort to practice pratyahara daily. Turning off the noise helps calm a busy and restless mind.
For Pitta constitutions, pratyahara can help relax the body and mind. Those of a Kapha constitution who tend to be slower can practice pratyahara by engaging in higher level mental practices that are both energizing and grounding.
Ayurveda offers us tools that are easy to incorporate into the daily routines we already engage in. Here are some ideas that I have been using in my own life to practice pratyahara (right sense management). They are easy to incorporate into your day to day living and will help you bring a lightness and peace into your days. Sift through to find the ones that resonate with you.
One of the easiest things to do is to simply turn off the noise. What do you do first thing in the morning? Do you turn on the news, scroll through your phone? Take a look at your day – make a list of all the things that come at you through the day.
- What is your morning like?
- What are mealtimes like?
- What happens in the afternoon?
- What do you do in the evening?
After you’ve created an outline of what your day looks like – start looking at areas where you can ‘turn down the noise’. If you have a busy Vata mind and reach for your phone or the radio first thing in the morning, replace that with a different action for a week or so. If you are a Kapha, try getting up and stretching, doing a sun saluation or other exercise before reaching for work emails or social media scrolling.
Can you turn down the noise at mealtime? Leave the TV off, sit everyone at the table and give thanks for your food. Becoming intentional with the simplest of things can help tune out some of the outside noise and bring your body and mind into the present.
Is your afternoon full of meeting your children’s needs, feeling like you never get a chance to just simply sit? Try creating quiet time – turn on an audio book for the children, create a cozy nook and encourage them to take their own quiet time. Create an afternoon ritual of storytelling and reading, giving everyone an opportunity to slow down and engage in right management of the senses.
When the kids are in bed, do you immediately reach for your phone or turn on the TV? Think about what you can do in the evening that allows your body and brain to take a break from all the input and make a few evenings a week “screen free”.
If you start to consciously manage the input coming at you and your children every day, in a week or so you will notice that you feel lighter and more at ease.
Before you get out of bed in the morning, take a few minutes to set an intention for your day – a thought or prayer to carry with you through the day. I hung a card by the door in my bedroom, something to read as I walk out in the morning to set a level of intention for the day.
“I let go of all expectations I place on myself and others as I meet every moment with love.”
Even if the kids are already awake, I pour myself a glass of water and sip it while the sun comes up before tending to anything else. What space can you give yourself in the morning routine to ground and nourish yourself?
Try taking five minutes to be still after you’ve brushed your teeth. Use your favorite skin cream and rub it gently into your skin before you leave the bathroom. Take a few deep breaths. For 10 seconds, bring all of your attention to your eyes. Close your eyes tightly then allow them to relax. Notice the feeling of your eyelashes brushing your face.
Take your cup of water and hold it between both palms. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. The entire universe exists in that water, sip it slowly, you have the time. There’s nothing to rush to.
The next time you notice you are becoming tense in your movements and words – stop what you are doing. Take a slow deep breath. Use your fingers to massage your cheeks, smoothing your forehead. Rubbing the stress from your jaw.
These small moments add up each day, grounding you and gifting you a little relief from tension around you.
Pratyahara offers us an opportunity to tune into ourselves, becoming mindful of our emotional and physical state, bringing balance to body and mind.