The fifth limb of Patanjali’s 8-limbed path, pratyahara, is the yogi’s ability to draw their senses inward, to shift from an external focus to an internal focus no matter the circumstances. This requires a disciplined mind that can be primed with yoga asanas and pranayamas. Our complete focus in the preceding limbs guides us to tune into a place within that exists beyond our senses. As asana and pranayama prepare us for withdrawing our senses, pratyahara develops our ability to concentrate, priming us to move skillfully deeper to the subtle inward states of meditation and contemplation.
Pratyahara is essential for developing present-moment awareness. When we allow our mind to lead us in any direction, we succumb to an incessant flow of external stimuli. In training our minds to focus inward, and withdraw the senses we achieve greater clarity and lucidity. This translates to an increased capacity to focus and concentrate, which can improve any endeavor we set out on. Additionally, practicing pratyahara may help us manifest more joy in our lives as we become more focused on ourselves and less likely to compare our achievements with others.
We invite you to join us in bringing more awareness to the practice of pranayama this month (and beyond). Here are a few ways to get started:
- Focus on your breath – In classes, stay attuned to your breath to foster a meditative quality.
- Utilize pranayama practices to deepen awareness, focus the mind, and control the senses.
- Detox from the media. distance yourself from the sensory overload of media outlets. If only for an hour or two spend some time with the tv, laptop, and mobile powered off.
- Practice Patience. Soften your expectations of achievement in your yoga practice, and allow your mind time to develop and grow.
- Be here now. Whether it is yoga practice, conversation with a friend or family member, or fulfilling in responsibilities, let go of resistance and be fully engaged in the moment.
In a time when the flow of stimuli can be overwhelming it’s essential to take moments of sensory rest. The information from the external world can pull us further away from our inner peace, and reactivity has become the cultural norm. Pratyahara is a gateway to the serene nature of our inner space, fostering peacefulness and positivity from within. Give yourself the gift of presence and time to refocus through sensory withdrawal.