“A cobb salad, some yummy ingredients, but a whole lot of lettuce underneath.” “Horrifying.”
“An assembly line of the same ole’ thing in a slightly different package.”
Yes, unfortunately, these are real-world depictions of singles’ experiences out in the dating world. Dating is full of funny stories, romantic gestures, and in some cases, a whole lot of frustration.
If you are like the people I encounter in my work, you are looking for a better way, a healthier way, and a more mindful way to approach dating. Well, look no further. And yes, we’ll bring it back to yoga once again.
Yoga is an almost 2000-year-old physical, emotional, and spiritual health practice that involves way more than holding an uncomfortable position for an extended amount of time while focusing on your breath. It is actually quite a bit more extensive and involves eight essential sutras of yoga.
Previously, I’ve made use of the first four sutras of yoga – involving how to treat others (Yama), how to treat oneself (Niyama), how to practice the postures (asana), and how to control your breath (pranayama) – to demonstrate how these same philosophies and disciplines can propel your dating experience from tedious to enjoyable.
The previous pieces on the Yoga of Dating may provide an even richer experience on how yoga philosophy can help your dating. However, if you are just tuning in, don’t fret, you can start here and explore the others another time. You arrived here just as you were intended to do so.
Praty…what? Hang tight and we will delve into this one together. The fifth sutra, or limb, of yoga philosophy, is called Pratyahara.
When broken down – Praty means to “control” and ahara means “food” or “anything we take into ourselves from the external world” (Frawley, 2015). When put together, pratyahara means to gain mastery or control over external influences.
In today’s world, we are inundated with external influences – food, substances, messages, people, ideas, and experiences – the list goes on and on. Some experts say that we are exposed to more “new bits” of information in 30 days than our grandparents encountered in 30 years. Our poor brains, bodies, and hearts may be working much harder than they used to do.
A typical day may start with checking email, tuning into the news, viewing a laundry list of social media sites. Then on the way to work there’s billboards, noisy traffic, potent exhaust, a delicious egg sandwich at your favorite coffee shop. Once you arrive, there’s your boss yapping at you the second you walk in the door, relentless hunger pains around 1pm because you waited too long to eat, followed by a dash down the busy city street to grab a burger before heading back to read the text messages from your mother about setting you up with her friend’s son or daughter, rushing to a Power II yoga class to have a 60 min-life break and then vegging on the couch until 10 p.m. watching reality TV, meanwhile spending countless minutes on that all-too-present mobile device that is basically glued to your hand from the time you wake up.
Does that sound about right? I thought so.
How in the world are you supposed to get centered and find a rewarding relationship with all of this going on?
Pratyahara teaches us that in order to get centered and gain mastery of our senses, we must withdraw from our senses. When your yoga teacher says to practice pratyahara, it most often means to close your eyes, withdraw from sight, and go within to deepen your practice.
Let’s get off your yoga mat for a moment and think about how the numerous external influences – social media sites, media, friends, family, social/religious norms - are affecting your quest to find that special someone.
How many times have you questioned your relationship status because of something you read or saw? How many times have you felt “less-than” because of something a family member said? How is your “list” of qualities you’re looking for distracting you from how you really feel about a person? What rabbit holes of angst, self-doubt, or preoccupation have you fallen down lately?
How can unplugging from these senses help you connect with yourself? How could withdrawing from your senses heighten your senses? How could it enhance your awareness of your true, authentic “list?”
Perhaps, withdrawing from dating for a moment and reconnecting with yourself is what you need most.
Taking an honest look at what external influences hinder your journey will help you clarify and gain mastery over your relationship sensory input.
The second part of practicing pratyahara to enhance your dating experiences is to open up to healthy, enriching external influences while simultaneously limiting the influence of negative sensory experiences.
For example, this might be working with a relationship coach or therapist to enhance your insight into relationship roadblocks. You might want to try this instead of turning to your Negative Nancy/Nathan best friend who criticizes your attempts to put yourself out there. You know the one: “I can’t believe you did blah blah blah. What you should have done was blah blah blah.”
In the world of the interweb, you could be seeking out positive media influences such as mindful relationship blogs and dating sites to seek connection through enriching means, rather than repetitively lurking on sites that feel a bit like a dating/hook-up merry-go-round.
Opening up to date better could also mean starting with the most essential aspect of a healthy relationship – you. What creative endeavors can you explore? What adventures can you embark upon? What self-care helps you connect and restore your sense of self?
Pratyahara not only deepens your yoga practice, it also enhances your dating practice. Learning how to withdraw from the tidal wave of dating sensory input helps you evaluate, discard, reconnect, and open up to dating experiences with a whole new set of senses.
Frawley, D. (n.d.). Pratyahara: The Forgotten Limb of Yoga (R. Butalia, Ed.). Retrieved May 5, 2015, from http://www.indiatravelogue.com/sacr/refl/pratyahara.html
About the Author
Dr. Kristen Hick, Psy.D. is a regular contributor with MeetMindful. She is a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in the area of awakened dating and healthy relationships. She is the founder of The Center for Shared Insight, a private psychotherapy practice in Denver where she and her clients focus on Individual Relationship Therapy. Dr. Hick’s expertise lies in helping individuals create healthy, meaningful, and loving relationships with others through healing, strengthening and transforming their most essential relationship, with themselves. Dr. Hick holds a Master’s and Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology and is a Community Supervisor for doctoral-level students in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver. She is a former Associate Professor, Adjunct Faculty member at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. When not helping clients fulfill their personal relationship goals, she enjoys the Colorado outdoors, capturing life through photography, spending time with family and friends, practicing yoga and hopes to one day manage her first unassisted headstand. You can connect with Dr. Hick on her site, Facebook or Google+.