As Phoenix Rising yoga therapy practitioners we learn how to hold space for our clients. By extension, we begin to cultivate our ability to hold and create space for ourselves. As we continue our practice we may become more aware of both our external and internal spaces. We notice external sources of stimuli and how they show up in our spaces and in our lives. We turn our focus inward and observe what is happening there as well. Both internal and external spaces provide fertile grounds for exploration.

Pratyahara is the withdrawal of our senses from an object. Pantanjali’s fifth of eight stages speaks directly to the yogic practice of turning the mind towards introspection by voluntarily shutting out distractions provided by our senses. We are invited to go inwards. That’s quite an amazing offer at this time of the year. Tastes, touch, sights, sounds and smells are all part of our external environments, enhanced perhaps, as we head towards the holiday season.

Consider how easy it might be to become over stimulated by our external spaces and senses at this time of the year. The abundance of holiday cheer, family, friends, parties, gifts and celebration all contribute towards sensory overload. Not necessarily a bad thing, but at times a measure of quiet and introspection provide welcome respite. Who hasn’t at some time or another found themselves taking a deep falling out breath at the height of the season? Landing in our bodies as our breath guides the way home…..we find ourselves connected to all of ourselves and to our internal landscape. We voluntarily turn inward, even as we acknowledge all that is happening elsewhere.

Mother Nature seems pretty smart about all of this. During the next few weeks she will be ushering in Winter Solstice and setting the stage for the potential of an inward focused visit. Up until December 12, 2012 (to be exact) daylight will grow shorter and darkness will increase. What would it look like to work with and bring more Pratyahara into your life and your practice at this time of the year? How might shorter days and longer nights serve you as you contemplate the shift from external to internal, from sensory overload toward sensory introspection?

For me, working with Pratyahara around the holidays offer balance, perspective, and a unique opportunity to return again and again to my inner spaces. While acknowledging and appreciating my outer environment, I choose to take a rest from my senses and contemplate from the inside out. Pretty sweet!