Yoga, Not Asana: Pratyahara

Recently, life has felt busier than ever. Full of great things, as I’ve been very conscious of the shape and direction of each of the commitments I’ve taken on, but busier nonetheless. I find myself in rare, spare moments missing the afternoons of only a few years ago, when I would often spend time just sitting in a park, reading or talking with friends, enjoying the sunshine.

Looking at my schedule, I knew that I had this one day off from teaching for at least twelve days in row, not to mention my other never-finished list of tasks for the studio. Weighing the benefits of practicing against the physical dehydration, mental exhaustion and preoccupation of going to the studio, I knew I just needed one day of physical space to nourish some mental space.

So for one day, I didn’t drive, didn’t work, didn’t do anything I didn’t feel like doing. I only left the house for a mile-long leisurely bike ride to pick up nails from the hardware store.  I barely said a word all day (especially nice when teaching requires 90 minutes of uninterrupted speaking– such a luxury to feel no need to talk). And so I listened to the interviews and videos that I’d kept open for weeks on my internet browser, waiting for the elusive “right time.” One of the things I listened to was an audio recording from a book, and the following words in particular were exactly what I needed to hear:

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence, or a vice. It is as indispensable to the brain as Vitamin D is to the body.”
– Tim Kreider, from “Lazy: A Manifesto”

I sat in my new home and enjoyed the quiet, the light.

Simple, clean, quiet

Simple, clean, quiet

I didn’t feel guilty about doing this, but I did do feel protective. I heard that little voice in my head,  that demands constant productivity, that unnecessarily and preemptively fears judgement and needs to justify any lapses. But the time was MINE, and it felt good.

Now, in retrospect, I recognize that this was my time for pratyahara. Pratyahara, the fifth limb according to the yoga sutras, means withdrawal of the senses. I needed to get away from the noise, the stimulation, the stress. I needed the space so I could connect the dots.

Yoga asana is important, and crucial. But it is also incomplete. I want to get better at recognizing and making space for the practices that will help ALL of me thrive. To practice yoga, but not necessarily asana. Please do the same for yourself, and I promise we will all be better human beings because of it.