In our modern society, there is no shortage of routes to receive information. From cell phones to computers to smart watches, it is no wonder you might often feel like your senses are on overdrive.
Sensory overload occurs when one or more of our five senses becomes overstimulated. For example, one’s sense of hearing may become overloaded when music is too loud or their vision may be impaired from overexposure to bright lights.
In the yoga tradition it is said that the senses are governed by the mind, the mind is governed by the breath, and the breath is governed by the nerves. Our senses inform the mind and give us information about the world around us, but our senses can also control our mind and control us if we are not careful.
With no guidance, our senses will carry our attention outward, like horses running wild. When our attention is inwardly concentrated, we do not register sights, sounds, or other sensory details around us and are no longer distracted by external objects.
We can think about a turtle here. The turtle withdraws into its shell for both safety and restoration. This restoration is especially important for the brain and nervous system, which normally experience almost constant stimulus. As the senses rest, the mind and emotions become calm and serene.
Pratyahara is the practice of withdrawing the senses away from the external, physical world and inward toward the interior Self. B.K.S. Iyengar states, “When we turn our attention fully to the inner movement of the breath, our senses lose their acuity in relation to the external world.”
If you would like to practice bringing discernment to the information you take in through your senses, consider the following.
- Practice Brahmari, bee breath.
- Experiment with mindful eating. If you haven’t tried it, this raisin activity is a fun one.
- Schedule intentional time away from your cell phone. This could be as simple as charging your cell phone in a different room while you are sleeping.
- Bring awareness to the type of content you take in through reading and watching television and movies.