If you happen to attend yoga classes, you are usually requested to give your attention to your breath. You are slowly going to a place that occurs outside our senses. Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it’s easy. You should know that it is a part of an essential path in the eightfold practice of yoga. This is called pratyahara, or the withdrawal of the senses. In this article, you will know as to what is the meaning of pratyahara in yoga. You will understand why it is practiced and why it is essential to follow.
What is Pratyahara ?
Pratyahara in yoga is from the Sanskrit root that is prati, which means “against” or “away” and ahara, which means “food” or “nourishment.” Therefore, the pratyahara meaning is
“withdrawing of the senses” from what it is nourishing. This withdrawal is important for practicing the eight parts of yoga. Pratyahara allows you to experience your inner self.
There is food as a factor to nourish the body and food through the senses that feed the mind. There is also food through a group of people we love that feeds the soul. We should always be vigilant of the food that we consume. If you have a malnourished body, tired mind, and emotionally stressed heart, your ability to withdraw the senses will be affected.
It would take years to develop a practice of pratyahara. It is after the earlier limbs of yoga because, before your senses are turned inwards, your mind must be cleansed and calmed by yama, pranayama, and niyama. Once the pratyahara is recognized, your mind would become calm to have a good focus and meditation. If you have already mastered the pratyahara, you will make your senses inward. It gives you expert power.
Four Forms of Pratyahara
- Indriya (Control of the Senses)
This is the most critical form among the four. It is called the indriya-pratyahara, and it is the sense that dictates the mind on what to do. Human as we are, we must learn how to control and discipline the demands of our senses, and give our minds the silence it needs willingly. The best way to discipline our senses is to refrain from any sensory impressions. Rather than spending too much time on social media, spending time in connecting with nature is way better.
- Prana (Control of vital energy)
Pranayama is a way of readying yourself for pratyahara. In prana-pratyahara, your senses are focused on the following prana. It is gathered and then withdrawn.
- Karma (Control of actions)
The karma-pratyahara is the total control of your actions. Your desire for things and success would never be ending. The outcome of happiness is the time when your need for the physical world does not exist anymore. An example of practicing karma- pratyahara is the act to help and serve, without expecting something in return.
- Mano (withdrawal of the mind)
Mano-pratyahara is the practice to withdraw the mind from the consumption of impressions. Your focus is to control your mind and your senses as well.
What is the Importance of Practicing Pratyahara
We usually receive an endless stream of information from our five senses. Little did you know, the flow of stimuli in today’s digital age is overwhelming, and it gets harder to take a moment of the sensory test. When we respond to the information of our senses, we are being carried away from inner peace.
We bring ourselves into the changing external world. The senses can instantly take over, and we end up escaping from a spontaneous reaction to the other. We ended up forgetting our goals in life.
How Can a Person Practice Pratyahara?
For you to practice pratyahara, keep in mind that anything that takes your attention away from the outside impression creates positive and peaceful inner impressions. To know more about what is the meaning of pratyahara in yoga, you must also understand how you can practice it to understand its meaning clearly.
Distance Yourself from Social Media
When you feed too much of yourself through television and social media, what do you think are the impressions? Is it worth your time, or is it useless? Distancing yourself from social media would be healthier and better. You can do it even in a few hours or every other day. This is one way of disciplining yourself from the impressions it could give you.
Move into Peace
You release physical tension during the yoga exercise, especially during asana practice. Your mind needs to be quiet and prepare for the next level of yoga. Nurture the elements of pratyahara by parting the external world behind. Just remain fully present on your mat. Be cautious of your senses and witness your reactions to them.
Focusing Your Mind
Your mind can only take in a certain amount of sensory input. This will let the energy flow to where your mind goes. You can use this in pratyahara, and it purposely directs your inner mind, away from external stimuli. If you have total control of your mind, your senses are controlled as well.
Keep on Practicing
To fully understand what is the meaning of pratyahara in yoga, you need to keep on practicing. Yoga is a process of discovering and developing. You can’t accomplish it overnight. It takes time and patience to learn and to master. We should instill in our minds the willingness to grow and learn. Practice and make every day’s opportunity to master and to grow.
It would take years to master the practice of pratyahara. But once you’ve mastered it, then it allows your mind to experience tranquil to develop meditation and focus. You will never experience an interruption or the urge to go away from the world to meditate. It will only make your senses back to you. Moreover, pratyahara is indeed a powerful way to gain self-control.
Always remember that this is the practice of training your mind and preventing you from bothering all unwanted external stimuli. Just imagine living in a place that is full of shields to prevent you from being affected by any adverse external matters: no distractions, no anxiety, no noise, or negativity, only pure peace and full of positivity. Right there, you realize what is the meaning of pratyahara in yoga.