Sometimes, when you try to focus or meditate, there are external influences that won’t let you. Modern life has become so complicated that people can barely focus on their mental well-being. This is where Pratyahara guides your mind away from the environmental factors and external influences that won’t allow you to focus.
And if this is what you are experiencing, you are not alone; many yogis seek guidance in practicing Pratyahara in the modern world. So, in this article, we welcome you to our guide as we answer commonly asked questions about this practice.
What is Pratyahara?
If loosely translated from Sanskrit, Pratyahara means “withdrawal of senses.” We would describe it as the intentional withdrawal of energy from the senses. However, the withdrawal is conscious.
It is the fifth limb of the Ashtanga yoga system and serves as the meditation practice’s foundation. With this, you understand how critical it is. You know how vital the meditation practice is to yogis and everyone.
When you start your yoga practice, everything may seem to go smoothly. However, once you get to the senses, things may get confusing. We live in a fast-paced world where daily life feels like we are grinding 24/7. As a result, it may seem impossible to focus and practice yoga. Pratyahara practice allows you to engage with your true self. And it does this by allowing you to absorb your senses rather than trying to analyze them.
The 4 Types of Pratyahara
Focusing on the below four branches will help you enjoy the benefits of the Pratyahara practice the most. We will also guide you on how to use these sub-types effectively.
Indriya pratyahara focuses on the withdrawal of the external stimuli you experience via the five senses:
To withdraw these senses, try concentrating on your natural breathing pattern. This will help create an environment favorable for your mind’s relaxation.
Prana is the universal energy that flows throughout the body. When practicing pratyahara, you must master the art of letting your energy flow without holding back. This could be as simple as encouraging negative thoughts about your immediate environment or visualizing the death process instead of blocking them. When you learn this, you will focus more on your inner self and not the energy of the senses.
Karma focuses on control of the action. It is about letting go of all your actions and thoughts in favor of humanity and divine service. You can practice this through Karma yoga. Karma yoga teaches us that happiness is limitless when not attached to the results of our actions.
This is the last sub-type of Pratyahara. It involves the withdrawal of the mind. In Mano, you not only withdraw the external stimuli but also guide your reaction to them. You also redirect your attention inwards.
How Can You Practice Pratyahara?
To get started, incorporate asana into your practice.
Picture this: You have just performed a corpse pose (Savasana). You are now lying on your mat after the practice. Take this moment as an observation period. Close your eyes and engage with the sensations in your body. Slowly scan your body and find any holding, pain, or gripping. Try to point out the areas of discomfort. Try to notice every little thing happening in your inner world as much as possible.
With this, see if you can shift your attention from the things happening around you, to focus on your breathing. Bring your attention to your breathing and use it as a constant metronome within your body instead of your external environment.
Through this, you will gradually start to zone out from external stimuli.
Other Tips to Practice Pratyahara in the Modern World
Many people are stressed and depressed today. It is just the life we are living. The situation is even worse for people in big cities as their life is more rushed. It becomes difficult to try and let go of your external influences and focus on your inner self. In short, if Pratyahara asks you to withdraw your senses, you do not know where to start.
Try these tips to help you withdraw your senses and consequently enjoy the benefits of Pratyahara.
#1: Use Yoga Nidra
A great place to start your Pratyahara is yoga Nidra, which is a practice of withdrawing all senses except sound.
Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation, a form of Pratyahara that allows yogis to scan their bodies and tap into the relaxed state of consciousness. This allows the mind to settle between a place of wakefulness and sleep.
#2: Observe Silence
You can be up and down every day. This is why you need to set some time apart to observe silence. You can organize home retreats or have a period of silence and meditate. Use this period to hold a simple hand mudra and focus on the inward.
#3: Practice Mindfulness
Adopt a regular schedule to focus on your body and the senses. As you go about your day, pay close attention to every sensation your experience. Keep in mind how external forces influence your:
- Perception of things
Refrain from participating in idle gossip or any negative remarks. In short, stay away from practices that do not contribute to your inner peace. It is not your business if it does not affect or involve you. Things that deteriorate the state of your inner peace make it difficult for you to focus. You have no business concentrating on it if it is not feeding your soul.
We all want to enjoy the great benefits of Pratyahara. These range from calming the mind, reversing the disturbed flow of prana, and stimulating the mind. It is, however, not as easy to get there. The modern world does not make it any easier for us. The tips above and the principles of the four types of Pratyahara can help you achieve the highest levels of Pratyahara.