Finding Balance this Holiday Season with Pratyahara.

In Ayurveda, Ahara is the food we take in.  Whether it is through the mouth or our five senses, we are constantly taking in.  As you can imagine, Ahara (food) is a main ingredient for optimizing our health.  In fact, it is one of the three pillars of health according to Ayurvedic Medicine, the other two Nidra (sleep) and Brahmacharya (balanced sex drive.) While Ahara is a key element for good health, overconsumption will tip the scale.  And I am not referring only to food consumed through the mouth!  Especially this time of year, we are constantly taking in from all our senses.

Are you feeling the overload?  Going to holiday parties a few times a week?  Braving the crowded malls to finish your holiday shopping? Enduring the heavy holiday traffic? What if we balanced what we take in with what is already inside? Pratyahara is the practice of withdrawing from external sensations into the world within.  While being the 5th limb of yoga, Pratyahara occurs naturally after practice of the Yamas (moral disciplines), Niyamas (positive observances), Pranayama (breathing techniques) and Asana (posture). Seems like a tall order if you are not a practicing Yogi!

While finding balance with Pratyahara can certainly be mastered through the practice of yoga, not all of us carve out the time for a full practice every day, and yet, the need for introspection lingers.

If this is you and you are too busy for a full yoga practice, here are a few simple tips that lead to the same result.

  • Brahmari, also known as bumble bee breath.  Here’s how: we close off our five senses with our fingers.  Thumbs lightly press ear flaps, index and middle fingers frame the eyes, ring fingers underneath nostrils, pinky’s graze the mouth. Take a deep breath in through the nose, exhale slowly out the nose making the sound of a bumble bee.  Try seven rounds, diving deep into your inner landscape.  Let go of all external thoughts, sounds, smells, tastes and agendas. After seven rounds, sit quietly diving inside, noticing the fruits of introspection.
  • Paschimottanasana, also known as forward fold. Here’s how: find a comfortable, quiet place.  Roll out your yoga mat, or sit on the carpet with your legs fully extended in front.  Take a deep breath in as your arms rise toward the sky, exhale fold forward allowing hands to land on shins, ankles or feet.  Inhale lengthen spine, exhale fold forward drawing your attention inside.  Close your eyes and take ten to twenty full breaths.  Inhaling through your nostrils, exhaling the same. Slow down your breath, allow yourself to completely relax into the space you have cultivated.
  • Indulge in a Hot Bath, Pour your favorite bath salts and essential oils into running hot water, light a few candles, close your eyes, let go of the day and enjoy some you time!

Wishing you a Balanced, Joyful Holiday Season!