I live in a part of the world where a “sense feast” is presented to me every day. And since I am semi-retired, I mostly have time to linger over this repast.
I wake up to the sweet bell-like song of eastern rosellas and look across green meadows to see cattle grazing. These summer mornings are humid and languorous, with earthy odours rising from the vegetable patches. Strawberries are just coming in, and if we’re lucky we’ll beat the king parrots to the harvest.
Have you ever wondered why you are taught to withdraw your senses in the yoga relaxation – Savasana? Surely, your senses are potential anchors for your attention, a tool to make you more mindful.
I like Richard C. Miller’s audio recordings and his approach to Yoga Nidra because he describes the yoga practice of Pratyahara as ‘the restoration of the senses and mind to their natural functioning’.
Instead of suggesting that we should subdue our senses, the Miller way encourages us to acknowledge and welcome sensations as they arise in every moment. Over and above just practising this in Yoga Nidra, we can extend this embracing of sensations into everyday life so as to be fully present in any situation.
I’m only learning how to do this late in life. When I remember to fully experience life, I can transcend difficult experiences and just be myself in the midst of any circumstances. This state of mind is incredibly freeing.
David Garrigues, direcctor of the Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia, has said in his article Pratyahara: Withdrawing the Senses & Truly Enjoying Your Yoga that:
‘…using your body and your breathing to change your relationship to the sensory information you receive helps you bring more mind, more psychology, more honesty and authenticity to your awareness and your self-reflection.’
Rather than escaping from sensations, being with them creates greater awareness and clarity.
Grahana svarupa asmita anvaya arthavattva samyamat indriyajayay
Through samyama upon the purpose of the conjunction of the process of knowing, the ego, and nature, there is mastery over the senses.*
*Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, B.K.S. Iyengar