Pratyahara often seems to be the ignored and misunderstood limb of Patanjali’s 8 limbed machine of Ashtanga yoga. With the other limbs both being extra tangible, easier to conceptualise, or to date off we don’t even hassle, Patanjali’s vague fifth limb can be without problems ignored. Patanjali himself handiest committed  sutras to pratyahara in his Yoga Sutras. But, irrespective of its obscurity, pratyahara is a very fundamental factor of yoga.
Different yogic texts and unique schools of yoga offer a diffusion of tactics to pratyahara, but its crucial meaning remains steady. Pratyahara is defined as the withdrawal of the senses or the independence from outside stimuli. Focusing on Patanjali’s 8 limbed gadget of tanga yoga, Patanjali places pratyahara because the 5th limb and the gatekeeper from the outer limbs to the internal limbs. Patanjali still considers feel withdrawal (pratyahara) to be an outer limb at the same time as list attention (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and absorption (samadhi) because the internal limbs. Pratyahara is our bridge to higher practices of yoga. As lengthy as we stay depending on external stimulus and our senses stay scattered rather than certain, our yoga practice shall remain externally oriented inside the first 4 limbs: yama, niyama, asana and pranayama. Though with consistent and faithful yoga exercise the limbs will ultimately spread themselves, pratyahara is so critical to our yogic improvement that it is deserving of greater attention and practice than it typically is given.
Patanjali does now not difficult on the way to exercise or reap pratyahara. In fact, the handiest limb he does describe in element is samadhi. For the closing seven limbs he most effective describes the outcomes of these limbs once they had been performed and does not give insight into technique or their practice. In Sutra 2.Fifty four Patanjali states in Sanskrit sva vishaya asamprayoge chittasya svarupe anukarah iva indriyanam pratyaharah, which can be translated as “whilst the mind is withdrawn from the outside then the senses follow and disengage from the experience objects. This is pratyahara.” When we turn our attention inwards and detach from the stimulations and distractions of the outside international then this is sense withdrawal. Patanjali keeps within the subsequent sutra 2.Fifty five: tatah parama vashyata indriyanam, or, “from that comes supreme command over the senses.” When we’re no longer attached to or distracted through outside gratification and stimulation, then we have performed command over the senses and can awareness the thoughts inwards. Therefore there are  factors to pratyahara. The first aspect is the detachment from external aversions or goals with the aid of reigning in our wandering senses and withdrawing from the outer world. The second component is the going inner and realising that the whole thing we want is already inside us.
As long as we accept as true with we want external sensory stimulus the longer we continue to be a slave to our senses, our desires and the outside international. This isn’t to endorse shutting out or negating the outside global, as the sector is our road to freedom. It is also now not the say we shouldn’t revel in the outside international or sensory pride. Instead, it’s miles to claim that the more we consider we want sensory stimulation and the extra enslaved we’re to external pleasures or aversions, the extra difficult it’s going to probable be to discover the inner global of awareness and freedom. This is why we exercise pratyahara.
Prana goes where the mind is going and it’s miles no surprise to mention that the mind is usually unfocused. Therefore while our senses are unregulated, our mind follows our senses outwards, we connect to gadgets, and our prana will become dispelled. When the senses reach out and we identify ourselves with the outside global, we’re pulled away and prana can’t be gathered and arrested in the frame. By pulling the senses inwards we start to steady the thoughts fluctuations and retain prana. The accumulation and retention of prana is fundamental to practicing the better limbs of yoga.
Seeing as pratyahara is quite essential, because it leads us from the outside to the interior (which, as Yogi Sunil Sharma constantly emphasises, is a defining factor of yoga); how does one practice it? As noted above, Patanjali describes the outcomes of attaining the limbs but now not their exercise. As with most yogic traditions, practical approach is meant to gain knowledge of by way of a qualified instructor according to the capability of the student. Even later more instructive texts, which include the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, are supposed to be taken along with a guru’s teachings. Just as there are delineated techniques for the practice of asana, pranayama, and meditation, so there also are defined techniques for the practice of pratyahara. Where asana works on a physical degree, pranayama on an active degree, and meditation on a mind stage, pratyahara works on all three degrees and accordingly is practiced in asana, pranayama, and meditation.
An essential approach to taking flight the senses is to bind them to something else. We try this in our each day ashtanga asana exercise, every so often without realising. As we breathe and flow via our postures we eliminate our attention from the outside international, starting with the aid of specializing in our frame alignment and movement. The sense of sight is sure by means of the practice of dristi, or, the prescribed focal factor of the gaze. The experience of hearing is sure by being attentive to our ujjayi breath. The tactile feel is sure by using our body in asana and by using the regular activation of bandha. As our asana practice will become greater superior so does our potential for pratyahara and we come to be more adept at disengaging from environmental stimulation.
There are also unique asanas that assist to result in experience withdrawal. Supta kurmasana, or bound tortoise pose, is an splendid instance of this. As a leg over head posture (and the first leg over head posture of the ashtanga vinyasa machine), it features as a totally deep forward bend. Forward bends themselves function because the first steps at the direction inwards. Supta kurmasana is compared to a tortoise chickening out its limbs into its shell from the outer international. The shell is our thoughts and the limbs are our senses. This asana is an immediate practice of the faculties of sense withdrawal.
In a lot of his thorough and nicely researched books on yoga Gregor Maehle prescribes inversions (headstand, shoulder stand, and so on.) as a right away practice of pratyahara. Citing many yogic texts and scriptures, Maehle states honestly that with the aid of gathering and arresting amrita, the nectar of immortality, in the cavities of the cranium related to our maximum chakras, then pratyahara could be executed. This is finished via the right and responsible exercise of inversions. He even shows that during our every day asana practice we should extend our exercise of inversions and recommends that 60 minutes be spent on asana and 30 minutes be spent on inversions and last postures. Maehle’s extensive and clearly explained studies on inversions and pratyahara can be found in his e book on yogic meditation.
The breath is a powerful car that brings us from our outer international into our internal world. Through the regular exercise of respiratory physical activities and pranayama we are the use of our school of pratyahara by binding our attention to our breath. Assuming we’ve got end up sufficiently competent within the simple practices of pratyahara from gifted asana practice, we can now exercise binding our senses to the finer components of our breath and diffused bodies. By focusing on evening the force and length of the breath, counting the duration and variety of our inhalations and exhalations, the usage of right yogic breathing cycles and breath waves, and becoming aware about our breath and prana transferring through our subtle frame, we’re training an intermediate stage of pratyahara.
The exercise of Bhramari pranayama (humming bee breath) as outlined in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika can also be taken into consideration a direct exercise of sense withdrawal. During the practice we use the palms and arms to tug in and near our senses to the out of doors international. The hands cover the eyes and near the ears to external cognizance. By humming like a bumble bee we are aware most effective of the humming sound, bringing the agitated mind to a tranquil nation and bringing the senses from the outside to the inner.
A yogic meditation practice for pratyahara, though outdoor of the traditional ashtanga device, is yoga nidra meditation. Yoga nidra, meaning psychic sleep, is a practice that makes use of frame cognizance to withdraw from the outside world and input into the subconscious and unconscious realms of the psyche. Instructions are given at some stage in this guided meditation to bind the senses to diverse things including sounds and factors at the frame. Through the manner of binding the senses they may be automatically withdrawn, allowing the practitioner to completely loosen up and access the deepest parts of the inner international. Yoga Nidra meditation is a effective practice that efficaciously trains and strengthens our potential for pratyahara.
As pratyahara is the gateway from the outer to the internal limbs, and dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation) are the limbs that in the end observe pratyahara, it’s miles to be assumed at this factor that as a yoga practitioner our ability for withdrawing the senses is satisfactorily advanced as these practices are more advanced. Again, as with asana and pranayama exercise, there also are systemised techniques in ashtanga gadget for the exercise of meditation. Though many apprehend the practice of meditation to be surely sitting nevertheless and looking the breath, that method functions extra as a practice in relaxation and self focus instead of a meditation exercise. While it is a good preparatory exercise for meditation and will best song the ability for pratyahara, we are not likely to get very a ways by means of just watching the breath. As we’ve got learned to manipulate our breath and have grow to be more familiar with our strength body and our glide of prana, we are able to use pratyahara practice at some stage in meditation to begin to train the thoughts to bind. By eliminating our senses inwards, listening to our breath and feeling the sensation of prana moving through the diffused frame, we are able to begin to attention our interest on our shoshumna (imperative strength channel) and chakras (primary energy centres). This is the start of mastering to bind and droop the mind, that is the start of yogic meditation.
The sixth and seventh limbs are whilst the ability to bind the senses transmutes into the capability to bind the thoughts. Once all the hobby of the thoughts is bound for the duration of meditation, the mental fluctuations droop, and the eighth limb samadhi (of which there are 8 sub-limbs), or absorption, can be skilled and practiced. This is how the mastery of pratyahara will ultimately lead us from the outer limbs to the higher practices of yoga and inner exaltation. As is written inside the Maitri Upanishad: “if the gas of the senses is withheld, the thoughts is reabsorbed into the coronary heart.” When the senses are withdrawn through the practice of pratyahara, the inner limbs of yoga start to blossom and an entire other universe is placed at our fingertips.