USING THE MIND: 1. Sense Withdrawal (Pratyahara)
More and more we realise that for full health we need more than just physical well being. We need mental well being. Just as the body needs time, to
rest, to recuperate, heal, and prepare for the next task, so the mind needs to be treated in the same way.
Scientists tell us that there are patterns of electrical activity in the brain which vary according to
our level of activity. There are the busy, day time waves, useful when we need
to be active and rationalising. As the mind becomes more relaxed other
waves take over. Sleeping we move into deeper levels of relaxation. In yoga
nidra (deep relaxation), we are able to go even further to the very deepest level of relaxation, where the mind is awake
and alert but totally relaxed. We are told that even a few minutes of relaxation
at this depth is as good as an hours sleep.
Yoga provides us with many useful techniques for reaching these deep, delta waves, of relaxation. All forms of anxiety and stress tend to keep our minds occupied in negative ways. Learning how to deflect our thoughts to more positive tasks is the first step. The way we live our lives, our nutrition and
using physical exercise and correct breathing all play their part.
When we begin to focus on the mind, the first step to learn is the ability to ignore unwanted stimuli,
both from within and outside the body. In yoga we call the first stage Pratyahara
- sense withdrawal. Secondly we must learn to concentrate - Dharana. For yogis these practices lead onto
meditation - Dhyana..
An exercise in Pratyahara - Sense withdrawal.
1. Lie in Savasana,
the Dead Man pose, or sit with the spine erect and straight. Make sure you are
comfortable so you do not feel the need to move.
2. Be aware of everything
around you. Let your senses be aware of hearing sounds, the light on your closed
eyes, and the smell of the air you are breathing. Run your tongue over your lips,
and around your mouth, and sense any tastes. Sense the presence of the room or
space you are in, and other people, if they are there. Become aware of your sense
of touch, and the surface you are in contact with, your covering, or the air on your skin.
Realise that all of those are external to You.
3. As you become
aware of your own `space`, the auric field of energy which surrounds you, your mind will lose connection with those external
4. Become aware
of your physical body. For a little while just focus on any physical sensations
coming to your brain - pains or aches, imbalances, subtle movements, tensions. Try
to `let them go`. Stop holding onto them, and begin to watch your breath. Do not try to control your breathing, simply watch it for a while.
5. Then as the `watcher`
or witness, turn your attention to your mind. It may have already stopped racing
around trying to think of 20 things at once. Or it may still be busily chasing
its own tail, as it tries to remember things in the past, focus on what is happening now, and plan for the future. If that is the case DON`T GIVE UP. So many people say `I can`t
do that`, and stop trying. If we could all control our minds without effort we
should not need to practise these techniques. You are absolutely normal. Tell yourself that, and return to just watching those thoughts, and marvel how on
earth your brain can do all that and not blow a fuse. After a while you may find
that your mind becomes less frenetic.
6. For several minures
just enjoy watching your mind as it slows down. Just watch the thoughts as they
come and go. Don`t judge them as good or bad, important or unimportant. Just realise that they are thoughts, and you are watching them without interest or
involvement - just like an advertising video in a public place.
7. You will realise
that all the external things have become less intrusive. Use this technique when
you are in a noisy, stressful environment. In time you will be able to switch
on the feeling of uninvolvement almost at will. Then you can complete all that
you have to do efficiently and calmly. And your air of calm will affect those
around you to calm down a little also.