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9 Pratyahara Practices for Overwhelm

Updated: Mar 11

“Bone by bone, hair by hair, Wild Woman comes back. Through night dreams, through events half understood and half remembered...”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Pratyahara is the fifth limb of yoga and means withdrawing from your senses or detaching from the external world. It comes after pranyama, the breath, and before dharana, concentration, and is sometimes called the hinge to the inner and outer limbs of yoga.

Pratyahara can be used to calm our minds, going deep within ourselves to let go of overwhelm. We can then differentiate our own needs from others' desires or cultural expectations and really get to the root of who we are. That helps us calm our nervous systems and find joy, health, and happiness.

There are four main forms of pratyahara:

  • indriya-pratyahara—control of our senses

  • karma-pratyahara—control of our actions

  • prana-pratyahara—control of our prana

  • mano-pratyahara—withdrawal from our senses

Here are nine ways you can combine these four types of pratyahara to detox your emotional and mental bodies, combat overwhelm, and connect to your true self.

  1. Go on a media fast. Turn off your phone and electronics and let go of what's going on in the media or on social media for 24 hours (or three days, if you can handle it). See what comes up. The more you try this, the more you let go and find other, more soothing ways to nurture yourself. (And it's a good way to treat FOMA.)

  2. Meditate. If you have a regular meditation practice, maybe you lean into it more today. If you don't, you might try a YouTube sound meditation or just sit in silence for five minutes. If you're interested in cultivating a meditation practice, you might try The Muse. It tracks your theta waves and teaches you how to calm your mind through sound. And if you like to use metrics to track your progress, this can be a valuable tool.

  3. Light candles. Be sure to find non-toxic candles that don't contain carcinogenic fragrances. And make up your own rituals or practices by lighting a candle to read or do a meditation. And maybe in the process you'll lower your risk of cancer. (Did you know artificial light at night is associated with a higher cancer risk?)

  4. Read a powerful book. One of my favorite books to go back to is Women Who Run With the Wolves, quoted above. It's an exploration of feminine archetypal myths and folklore from a Jungian psychoanalyst. I love to listen to the author read it aloud on Audible. Whatever your favorite book is, reading is a good way to turn inward and get some needed quiet time. Keep a journal of favorite quotes to come back to, and you've got a resource to cultivate immediate pratyahara.

  5. Fast for 24 hours. Maybe you're not ready for a full fast yet, but you could try drinking nothing but smoothies, bone broth, green juice, or green tea for a day. Fasting can be very powerful and has many health benefits. See what comes up when you abstain from food for a day. When you fast, you can identify emotional and mental triggers that often make you want to eat.

  6. Create a silent retreat. This is hard to do, but being silent can be very powerful. Maybe you start with something small like turning off your text messages for a day or being quiet until noon if you share your home with a big family. You may start to pay more attention to the way in which you use words.

  7. Go on a silent walk in nature. If you usually talk on the phone or listen to music, turn them off today. Experience the sounds in nature. I like to hike in the Sespe Wilderness or take long beach walks with my dog and collect shells.

  8. Write or journal. If you need inspiration, you might try a journal prompt or The Artist's Way.

  9. Try the Pomodoro Technique. Set your timer for 25 minutes and get to work. When the timer goes off, take a short break and then repeat. This is a great way to get focused and avoid distractions and mind clutter.

Have an idea for a topic? Or want to share your cancer story on my blog? Contact me.

It's important to consult your own physician before fasting, and be sure to listen to your own body and intuition, only trying what resonates for you.

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