Pratyahara is the 5th limb of the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga, and is the practice of withdrawal of senses from the materialistic world and guiding them towards the mind to raise awareness and self-understanding within the yoga practitioner.
What is the Meaning of Pratyahara?
Pratyahara is derived from the Sanskrit words prati, which is a preposition that means against or away, and ahara, meaning food, or anything consumed into ourselves.
According to Sage Patanjali, pratyahara is to control the flow of energy of our senses from the outside world to within oneself. This is because when we are able to control our thoughts, feelings and emotions, we gain a better self-understanding of our inner awareness, and are better prepared for entering a meditative state.
Importance of Pratyahara
Pratyahara is important because our senses perceive information, and thus, form the basis of our thoughts, feelings and emotions. When these thoughts, feelings and emotions are affected by the outside world as a result of our senses, it can leave the mind exhausted and emotions unbalanced. With Pratyahara, one can regain this lost energy by focusing the flow of energy inwards.
4 Types of Pratyahara
The 4 types of Pratyahara are:
1. Indriya Pratyahara (controling our senses)
2. Prana Pratyahara (control the life force or prana – the source of one’s spiritual energy)
3. Karma Pratyahara (controlling our actions and deeds)
4. Mano Pratyahara (withdrawing and controlling the wavering mind)
How to Practice Pratyahara
Here’s how you can practice the art of pratyahara by controlling and withdrawing the senses:
Control the Consumption of Mass Media
In the modern technological world, we are constantly consuming information through mass media such as TV, radio, web streaming, and even, sound pollution from urban environments. This results in our senses being overclocked with thoughts, feelings and emotions based on this sensory input. To practice pratyahara, try taking a walk by yourself in a park and try to be mindful of your surroundings.
Lie Down and Close Your Eyes
One of the simplest ways to practice pratyahara is to simply lie down, close your eyes, and imagine a calm environment – such as a landscape, seashore, or beach. This will allow you to focus and withdraw your senses from the external environment and look inwards for self-realization.