WISDOM WITHIN - September 2015 - Kansas City
How to Calm Your "Senses"
By Suzette Scholtes
Most new to yoga share they wish to ease stress, lose weight, become more flexible, or ease back, neck/shoulder or hip pain. Few say they wish to overcome limitations, ego, or evolve as a person. And that’s okay.
Transformation of bad habits or learning how to manage stress requires regular practice. An attorney shows up one night expecting to alleviate her stress in an hour. “Well, this does not work!” she said as she grabbed her designer bag and headed out the door. I felt bad for her as yoga is a powerful stress release.
The father of yoga, Pantajali, calls the fifth arm of yoga “pratyahara” or sense withdrawal. Many get stuck on this yet it’s not that hard if you know what to do. Once the skill is learned, most find peace and calm in minutes.
Scholars compare sense withdrawal to a turtle drawing its limbs into its shell. Think of the shell as the mind and the four legs and head as the five senses—taste, smell, sight, sound, and touch. Stress impacts us with tension in common body areas: 1. the jaw 2. the neck/shoulders 3. the abdomen 4. the back and 5. the knees. How to unhinge?
1. Relax the Jaw & Throat
Part the teeth a bit. Sense the “root” of the tongue and let it relax thus the tongue settles to your lower palate with the tip resting behind your bottom teeth. Corners of the mouth melt toward the jawbone. Soften your throat and the skin behind the ears and the sides of the neck. Allow whole upper body to release weight like heavy stones.
2. Relax Nose & Smell
Relax all bones and muscles of your face and bridge of nose. Watch your breath entering the nostrils left and right side. Which side is more open? Do you flare the nostrils? Ease the breath to move close to the midline of your nose. Feel your lungs fill with the breath. As you exhale feel how the external air has warmed to your body temperature at the side of your nostrils.
3. Relax the Eyes
As you “consciously” close the eyes avoid pressing the upper eyelid too tight to the lower eyelid. Feel as if the pupils fall away from the eyelid. Soften all the muscles around your eyes. Roll the pupils downward as if the back of your eyes sense the light and beauty of your heart. Allow eyes to be passive with no movement especially as you inhale.
4. Relax the Ears
Observe the rhythm of your breath. Note the exhale is longer than the inhale. Encourage a long, smooth, silky exhale. Be gentle on the inhale. Then allow your ear canals to “implode” or move to the base of your skull. Hear the sound of your exhale for seven cycles of breath.
5. Relax the Skin/Touch
The largest body organ is our skin. Imagine a line in the center of your face from hairline and move down to divide the forehead in half, center of nose, center of lips and center of chin. Allow the skin of the forehead to fall towards your temples. Soften the skin behind the ears, like wax dripping toward your earlobes. Soften the skin of you palms and the soles of your feet. Soften your abdomen and low back.
Summary: It is a willed and focused choice to relax. This requires practice. Some say sleep is Pratyahara but no as we lack conscious awareness of our ability to integrate inner and outer worlds. A quote from the Bhagavad Gita: “Just as the tortoise withdraws its limbs, so when a person withdraws his/her senses from sense object, wisdom becomes steady.”
Suzette Scholtes’ non-fiction writing won the prestigious “Writers Digest” award. Her passions are writing and yoga and she feels one needs a sense of humor for both. She founded The Yoga School of Therapeutics where she manages one of the regions prestige teacher training programs. 10400 W. 103rd Street,