The Beauty of Detachment

There are many views on the concept of “detachment”. Some people believe that learning
detachment is useless because life should be lived to its fullest. Others believe that practicing
the art of detachment is dangerous because if nothing affects us we cannot rid the world of its
many injustices. Others believe that detachment is a source of strength and inner peace.

Pratyahara, the yogic word for detachment, has often been badly misunderstood. Yes, we
should live life vividly and enjoy it. Yes, we should speak out against injustice and take
action. But there is also strength in learning how to practice proper detachment which can
help us all to live better lives.

Imagine you are looking at a painting about life. Imagine that you are standing so close to
the painting that your nose is practically touching the painting. All you can see are a couple
of colors and shapes. You are too close to be able to look at the whole picture, to even know
what the painting is about. You are too attached to what is happening right there in front of
your nose and are incapable to see further. Now say you decide that you want to back up
from all the vivid colors and non- understandable shapes and so you distance yourself to about
a kilometer away. You look at the painting again but you are so far away that you can only
see a fleck of something. Once again you cannot know what the painting is about. And this
is where appropriate detachment comes in. You need to find the appropriate distance, not too
close and not too far, to be able to truly appreciate what the painting is.

This same idea is valid for our lives. We need to cultivate the appropriate detachment to be
able to see what our life is about. We can’t be too involved or too distant. By finding just the
right distance, we can see what piece of the puzzle is missing and where to place it. This way
we can live life vividly but without being blind to the problems of it. This way we can rely on
our inner strength to change what needs changing.

Pratyahara is an important step of Raja Yoga. In our English yoga classes in Berlin, we learn
detachment through observing our bodies and respecting the limits our bodies set. We also
learn this through the practice of Tratak, or candle gazing. But mostly we learn it through
the practice of Yoga Nidra. Exercises such as counting your breaths backwards without
interfering with its rhythm are perfect ways to learn detachment.

Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday

Pratyahara: withdrawl of the senses

Pratyahara: withdrawl of the senses

In this hectic world of ours we often suffer from overstimulation. Too many headlines, deadlines, voices in our lives and in our heads. There are things all around us that of course, deserve our attention. And so we organize our time and our minds to accommodate the overload- to do the best that we can in a world that just keeps on bringing new things to us, to worry about, work through, discover.

One of the best uses of practicing yoga is to find appropriate detachment from the world around us. Not to a point where we no longer know what is going on but to a point where we can selectively withdrawal from the overload our senses have to offer when it becomes vital for our benefit or even survival.

That leads us to a fine question for this Tuesday, what is Pratyahara?

Pratyahara- means the withdrawal of senses. This is one of the eight steps of Raja Yoga and in our English Yoga in Berlin classes gets practiced through Yoga Nidra (yoga of conscious deep sleep), Pranayama (the breathing techniques), Tratak (candle flame gazing) and concentration on the eyebrow center. Pratyahara teaches us appropriate detachment which is necessary in order to attain inner peace through Raja Yoga. The word pratyahara comes from prati and ahara. Ahara means “food” or anything that we take into our body. Prati is a preposition that means “away”or “against”. Together it means turning away from external stimuli, and thus the withdrawal of senses.