This is part five of “Following the Eight-Limbed Path”, a series about Ashtanga yoga, read part four here
“You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Non-attachment sounds easy but can be difficult in real life. How can you not get attached to people, animals, or feelings of pure joy? Of course we want the people we love to feel free. We want them to feel loved and free to make independent choices. But sometimes we tend to cling on to both people and feelings, afraid to lose what we have. As easy as it is to get attached to people, we also get attached to material things or sensorial distractions. Have you ever had troubles with getting rid of clothes that have been special to you in the past? Or things that have been given to you as presents? Or do you feel cravings for sweets, affection, or maybe adrenaline rushes?
Letting go of distractions and stimulation
The fifth limb of Ashtanga yoga, pratyahara, means drawing back or retreat. In yoga, it implies to withdraw from the senses from external objects, which can be seen as the practice of non-attachment to sensorial distractions. It basically means that our senses stop living off the things that stimulate.
How can we draw our senses within and not feel attachment or cravings? This is something that becomes easier when practicing or being aware of the four first limbs: yama, niyama, asana and pranayama. Pratyahara is something that eventually will come more naturally and we are more likely to reach with a dedicated yoga practice. When we practice asana and pranayama we purify our bodies and our minds and eventually cravings and attachments won’t feel as important as before.
Our senses tend to become our masters rather than being our servants. Sometimes we have cravings for all sorts of things. In pratyahara the opposite occurs: when we have to eat we eat, but not because we have a craving for food.
Transcending reactions, sensations, and emotions
Much of our emotional imbalance is likely our own creation. A person who allows him or herself to be overly influenced by things outside their control will waste much mental and physical energy in reacting and/or suppressing unwanted sensations and emotions. This will make it hard when it comes to achieving inner peace and tranquility. In a sense, yoga is nothing more than a process which enables us to stop and look at the workings of our own minds. And only in this way, can we understand the nature of happiness and unhappiness, and transcend them both.
Non-attachment is not easy, but by drawing our senses within, we will not allow things to affect us so easily; and in so doing, we will be able to love the people we love in a way that make them feel free. Ultimately, we will feel free — and that is worth all the dedication and practice. Clinging on to objects or sensations will only disturb our inner peace, let’s save that energy for things that do us good: freeing ourselves and the people around us. We have the power to create our own balance and happiness in life.
Roll out your mat and let the process begin. Practice and all is coming.
Read part six of the series here
Written by Anastasia Konstadinidis