Pratyahara is the fifth limb of the eight limbs of yoga, as outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Pratyahara refers to the practice of withdrawing the senses from external stimuli in order to turn our attention inward and cultivate a deeper awareness of our inner world.
The word “pratyahara” comes from two Sanskrit words: “prati” which means against or away, and “ahara” which means food or sensory input. Together, pratyahara refers to the process of withdrawing our attention and awareness from the constant stream of sensory input that bombards us on a daily basis, such as sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical sensations.
Pratyahara is a preparatory practice for the next three limbs of yoga: dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). By withdrawing our senses from external stimuli, we can quiet the mind, reduce distractions, and create a sense of inner focus and concentration that allows us to move deeper into our meditation practice.
Pratyahara can be practiced through various techniques, such as:
Pratyahara meditation: This involves sitting in a quiet place and focusing on the breath or a specific object, while consciously withdrawing the senses from external stimuli.
Sense withdrawal: This involves consciously withdrawing the attention from one or more senses, such as closing the eyes to shut out visual stimuli, or plugging the ears to shut out auditory stimuli.
Sensory deprivation: This involves intentionally creating an environment that limits sensory input, such as sitting in a dark, quiet room or floating in a sensory deprivation tank.
Through regular practice of pratyahara, we can cultivate a greater sense of inner awareness and develop the ability to control our responses to external stimuli. This can help us to reduce stress, increase focus and concentration, and deepen our meditation practice.