At this time of year, it’s common to feel drawn in two directions. On the one hand, bright lights, shopping, overspending, overeating, alcohol, and consumerism are vying for our attention and on the other hand longer nights and colder weather are naturally calling us inwards.
If we allow ourselves to attune to the season, Winter’s pull to turn inwards can feel like a much-needed balance at the end of the year. As the leaves drop from the trees and become absorbed by the earth, nature is encouraging us to take time to rest and absorb all that we have been through and all that has passed. We can embrace the darkness of the longer nights as a time to process, accept, release and say goodbye to the past year.
Yoga texts refer to a process of withdrawing the senses from the outside to the inside. This process is called pratyahara – often translated simply as ‘turning our senses inwards’, the word stems from the Sanskrit prati and ahara, prati meaning “against or away” and ahara meaning something ingested, taken into ourselves from the outside. Pratyahara can be seen as the concept of turning our attention away from the external information that we would usually be ingesting as we go about our lives, so we can see ourselves more clearly and connect to our own experience more fully.
One of the reasons I love yoga is that it gives me a language to describe my experiences, helping me to make sense of my feelings so I can welcome and honour them. Naming the process pratyahara I can more readily acknowledge that the way I’m feeling now is a natural response to the overload my senses have been subjected to over this past year and I can more easily embrace the need for a period of descent and rest.
This winter I’ve planned time for pratyahara, to turn my attention inwards, to slow down and align with the darker nights and rest. I’ll be lighting candles, reaching for hot drinks, warm soothing foods, slowing my breath, journaling and reflecting on the year that has passed, allowing myself time to be alone to find inner stillness.
Pratyahara may be a process you already practice to help you to turn away from outside distractions so you can pay attention more easily and if you practice yoga, there may be postures, movements, or gestures that you use, maybe without even consciously realising that help you to turn away from the noise of everyday life, so you can feel quiet and centered.
If a need to turn inwards resonates with you this winter, I invite you to honour the feeling, to say to yourself ‘this belongs’. There are many ways to feel connected and when we lean into the opportunities for balancing and healing that winter brings, we are encouraging ourselves to appreciate and feel more connected to the rhythms of life.
Keep taking good care of yourself, Clair.