My Son, the Pratyahara Detector

Posted on March 11th, 2013 by in Life Lessons

Micah Mortali, guest blogger, Kripalu Yoga teacher, and manager of the Kripalu Volunteer Program

Pratyahara, or turning inward, is one of the eight limbs of classical yoga, and it has always been an important part of my practice: diving deep and exploring my internal landscapes, observing what can be seen when the eyes close and the inner eye opens. But things have shifted ever since I became a father. I like to think of my two-year-old son, Stryder, as a pratyahara detector. I usually try to practice in the living room first thing in the morning, but Stryder is an early riser so it’s a challenge for me to try and squeeze in my routine. As soon as my awareness drifts away from the realm of the living room, littered with toy trains and matchbox cars, and into my inner world, I can hear Stryder scamper over yelling, “Dadda, noooooo!” as if I were about to throw every toy he cherishes over Niagara Falls. Needless to say, I haven’t been able to figure out what exactly my practice consists of nowadays. What is difficult to understand before having children is the extent in which they take up every bit of space and time in your life.

If I attempt child’s pose, for example, Stryder has a little trick to distract me that always works. He climbs onto my back, reaches his arms around my face, and digs his fingers into my eyelids as if to peel them open. He can sense when my attention is not on him, when he isn’t the center of my world.  I know he feels safer, more secure when Daddy is totally present, so maybe that’s my practice now, being there for him, not just for me. It’s a huge adjustment for a yogi turned householder. I can say from personal experience that yogis have a tendency to become quite self-involved: self-study, self-care, self-inquiry… you get the idea. And as much as we practice working on ourselves, nothing I have ever encountered has brought me as face-to-face with my own egocentrism as the overwhelming love for my children, and knowing that they rely on me completely. So I practice letting go of what was and embracing what is. When Stryder digs his fingers into my eyes whenever I try to practice yoga, I laugh. When he steals butter from the refrigerator and eats it, I smile and think of baby Krishna, the butter thief. When he sings along with Snatam Kaur I realize how blessed I am, and in that moment I am a bhakti caught up in the Divine love flowing to me through my child. It can be messy, being a parent, but it’s who I am now, and I am grateful for it.

So a big part of my practice is being present for my family at a moment’s notice. There is no time for warm-up, no centering; it’s full-speed ahead, and it’s my sacred duty. All my years of inward focus have been leading me up to this, the ultimate posture: Dad-asana.



18 Responses to “My Son, the Pratyahara Detector”

  1. James Herndon March 11, 2013 1:29 pm #

    Son-in-law; grandson. Pride and thanks.

    • Micah Mortali March 11, 2013 9:36 pm #

      That means a lot Jim, thank you.

  2. Tim Walsh March 11, 2013 2:44 pm #

    Dad-asana! My favorite posture of all time! Blessings to you and your practice, no better teachers to date than my six year old twins.

    • Micah Mortali March 11, 2013 9:35 pm #

      Thanks Tim! Twins, I can only imagine :)

  3. Karl Saliter March 11, 2013 2:57 pm #

    Awesome piece. Thank you. My little girl is married and on a different continent, but it might have been yesterday.

  4. Micah Mortali March 11, 2013 4:19 pm #

    Thanks for your comments you guys. It’s theraputic to share these experiences and I love that it is received and appreciated. Father-in-law; papa-duck. You’re awesome and you are welcome!

  5. UncontainedLife March 11, 2013 8:57 pm #

    This is so beautiful, Micah!

  6. Kate Mortali Straub March 12, 2013 6:25 pm #

    Beautiful, Micah – I love seeing you as a dad. :-) XXOO

    • Micah March 13, 2013 9:56 am #

      I miss you sis! Can’t wait to be together soon :)

  7. elaina March 12, 2013 9:50 pm #

    love this!

  8. Heidi Skye March 14, 2013 8:59 pm #

    Ohm my, Micah, I can totally relate! Oakley isn’t at the age yet where he can verbally communicate his desire to have my full presence, but it’s clear that’s his intention when he’s crawling under my down dog or sitting on my lap grabbing at my shirt if I try to sit and sneak a peak at the inner world. Parenting is my practice too and embracing it in each moment with compassion is where I am living these days :)

  9. Jenny Rolls March 17, 2013 11:52 am #

    Thank you for this. I am a mother of an 15 month old (my first child) and she does not like it when I’m on my mat. I’m also a yoga teacher and since she was born I’ve struggled with letting go of what my practice used to be, and accepting what it is now. Sometimes it seems non existent and that discourages me. Then I read books, articles, blog entries like this and I’m reminded that I’m ‘practicing’ every moment of the day. Much gratitude.

  10. Chrystie Eileen April 10, 2013 7:16 pm #

    Such truth Micah…they can be our greatest teachers! Love to you and yours! Xo

  11. Trudy Richmond July 1, 2013 6:52 pm #

    Oh Micah, you so beautifully express the difference between being a householder and a yogi master. This is your time of life to express yoga through being a father and husband. Your vanaprastha time will come sooner than you can even imagine. Cherish your householder time. Namaste to you, my friend.

  12. Jessica July 2, 2013 9:50 pm #

    Excellent piece

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