By Michelle Stoppi, MA, LMT, CranioSacral Therapy Program Director at CE Institute LLC, Miami FL
These days, many people are doing Yoga. They are practicing Asanas and perhaps even Pranayama as well. But what about the next spoke on the wheel–Pratyahara? Are you ready to take it up a notch?
Pratyahara is the fifth limb of Patanjali’s Astanga Yogic path, after Asana & Pranayama. It is the drawing of the senses inward toward the self. It has been called “the forgotten limb of Yoga” and is referred to by BKS Iyengar as the “hinge” of the outer and inner quest, which requires stable and intense self-study.
Mudras, Mandalas, Mantras and yes, Cranial work, are effective ways of enabling Pratyahara, which is the first inward step on the path towards the ability to reach a deep state of meditation. The effect of all these practices is to stop the mind from spinning and allow the Sphenoid bone to be centered on it’s axis at the third eye. In fact, Yoni Mudra, a Pratyahara practice where we use our fingers to cover our senses to help them draw inward, looks a lot like a technique for Craniosacral balancing…
“Pratyahara is a Samskara”… BKS Iyengar
But what exactly is a samskara? Samskaras are impressions stored in the Citta (the body/mind/connective tissue matrix) that form the basis of our beliefs, attitudes and personality. They are the deep impressions of habit that create Karma. They are a form of forgetting, like a wave that separates from the ocean and then thinks of itself as the ocean, having forgotten it’s true nature. In the body, samskaras exist where the repetitious flow of diverted or fragmented prana carves out a path in the Citta much like how a repetitive current can create a change in the ocean floor.
In Cranial work, samskaras reveal themselves when assessing cranial movement. In some instances the cranial waves may go around or skip over an area, which shows as deviations in the waves. The Citta (the body/mind/connective tissue matrix) acts to contain any disrupted energy (or prana) and orients itself around it just like a river orients around a stone or a whirlpool. The habitual deviations in the flow of the cranial tides are the physical manifestations of samskaras.
Turning inward in self study in order to sense what is happening in ones inner world begins the release of impressions in the Citta and helps to balance the 3rd eye at the Spheno-basilar junction to release the “holding patterns” of samskaras. (This is also what we do in Cranial work.) We can view “Pratyahara as a samskara” because, in cranial terms, pratyahara is a process of “training” the sphenoid bone to align on the Occiput in order to create a more centered path in the river bed of the citta that quiets the mind. It must align if we are to silence the ego and witness our own inner peace.
A new samskara or path is thus created…one that is more fully aligned with the midline of the Sashumna Nadi, where we can dissolve into the restorative energy of the true self.
To learn about this concept and more, please click HERE to view available CranioSacral Therapy Classes with Michelle at CE Institute LLC, Miami FL