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Pratyahara usually appears to be the uncared for and misunderstood limb of Patanjali’s eight limbed system of Ashtanga yoga. With the opposite limbs both being extra tangible, simpler to conceptualise, or to date off we do not even trouble, Patanjali’s imprecise fifth limb might be simply missed. Patanjali himself solely devoted two sutras to pratyahara in his Yoga Sutras. However, no matter its obscurity, pratyahara is a really elementary facet of yoga.
Totally different yogic texts and totally different faculties of yoga provide quite a lot of approaches to pratyahara, however its important that means stays constant. Pratyahara is outlined because the withdrawal of the senses or the independence from exterior stimuli. Specializing in Patanjali’s eight limbed system of tanga yoga, Patanjali locations pratyahara because the fifth limb and the gatekeeper from the outer limbs to the inside limbs. Patanjali nonetheless considers sense withdrawal (pratyahara) to be an outer limb whereas itemizing focus (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and absorption (samadhi) because the inside limbs. Pratyahara is our bridge to greater practices of yoga. So long as we stay depending on exterior stimulus and our senses stay scattered relatively than certain, our yoga apply shall stay externally oriented inside the first 4 limbs: yama, niyama, asana and pranayama. Although with constant and devoted yoga apply the limbs will finally unfold themselves, pratyahara is so important to our yogic improvement that it’s deserving of extra consideration and apply than it usually is given.
Patanjali doesn’t elaborate on the right way to apply or obtain pratyahara. In truth, the one limb he does describe intimately is samadhi. For the remaining seven limbs he solely describes the outcomes of those limbs as soon as they’ve been achieved and doesn’t give perception into method or their apply. In Sutra 2.54 Patanjali states in Sanskrit sva vishaya asamprayoge chittasya svarupe anukarah iva indriyanam pratyaharah, which might be translated as “when the thoughts is withdrawn from the surface then the senses observe and disengage from the sense objects. That is pratyahara.” Once we flip our consideration inwards and detach from the stimulations and distractions of the exterior world then that is sense withdrawal. Patanjali continues within the subsequent sutra 2.55: tatah parama vashyata indriyanam, or, “from that comes supreme command over the senses.” Once we are now not hooked up to or distracted by exterior gratification and stimulation, then we have now achieved command over the senses and may focus the thoughts inwards. Due to this fact there are two elements to pratyahara. The primary facet is the detachment from exterior aversions or wishes by reigning in our wandering senses and withdrawing from the outer world. The second facet is the going inside and realising that all the things we want is already inside us.
So long as we imagine we want exterior sensory stimulus the longer we proceed to be a slave to our senses, our wishes and the exterior world. This isn’t to advocate shutting out or negating the exterior world, because the world is our highway to freedom. It’s also not the say we should not benefit from the exterior world or sensory pleasure. As a substitute, it’s to say that the extra we imagine we want sensory stimulation and the extra enslaved we’re to exterior pleasures or aversions, the tougher it is going to probably be to find the inside world of consciousness and freedom. That is why we apply pratyahara.
Prana goes the place the thoughts goes and it’s no shock to say that the thoughts is mostly unfocused. Due to this fact when our senses are unregulated, our thoughts follows our senses outwards, we connect to things, and our prana turns into dispelled. When the senses attain out and we establish ourselves with the exterior world, we’re pulled away and prana cannot be accrued and arrested contained in the physique. By pulling the senses inwards we start to regular the thoughts fluctuations and retain prana. The buildup and retention of prana is key to working towards the upper limbs of yoga.
Seeing as pratyahara is kind of vital, because it leads us from the surface to the within (which, as Yogi Sunil Sharma at all times emphasises, is a defining issue of yoga); how does one apply it? As talked about above, Patanjali describes the results of attaining the limbs however not their apply. As with most yogic traditions, sensible method is supposed to be taught by a professional instructor based on the capability of the coed. Even later extra instructive texts, such because the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, are supposed to be taken along side a guru’s teachings. Simply as there are delineated methods for the apply of asana, pranayama, and meditation, so there are additionally described methods for the apply of pratyahara. The place asana works on a bodily stage, pranayama on an lively stage, and meditation on a thoughts stage, pratyahara works on all three ranges and thus is practiced in asana, pranayama, and meditation.
An vital method to withdrawing the senses is to bind them to one thing else. We do that in our each day ashtanga asana apply, typically with out realising. As we breathe and transfer via our postures we take away our consideration from the exterior world, starting by specializing in our physique alignment and motion. The sense of sight is certain by the apply of dristi, or, the prescribed focus of the gaze. The sense of listening to is certain by listening to our ujjayi breath. The tactile sense is certain by our physique in asana and by the constant activation of bandha. As our asana apply turns into extra superior so does our capability for pratyahara and we change into more proficient at disengaging from environmental stimulation.
There are additionally particular asanas that assist to induce sense withdrawal. Supta kurmasana, or certain tortoise pose, is a wonderful instance of this. As a leg over head posture (and the primary leg over head posture of the ashtanga vinyasa system), it capabilities as a really deep ahead bend. Ahead bends themselves operate as the primary steps on the trail inwards. Supta kurmasana is in comparison with a tortoise withdrawing its limbs into its shell from the outer world. The shell is our thoughts and the limbs are our senses. This asana is a direct apply of the schools of sense withdrawal.
In a lot of his thorough and effectively researched books on yoga Gregor Maehle prescribes inversions (headstand, shoulder stand, and so on.) as a direct apply of pratyahara. Citing many yogic texts and scriptures, Maehle states clearly that by accumulating and arresting amrita, the nectar of immortality, within the cavities of the cranium related to our highest chakras, then pratyahara can be achieved. That is completed by the proper and accountable apply of inversions. He even means that in our each day asana apply we must always prolong our apply of inversions and recommends that 60 minutes be spent on asana and 30 minutes be spent on inversions and shutting postures. Maehle’s in depth and clearly defined analysis on inversions and pratyahara might be present in his e-book on yogic meditation.
The breath is a robust car that brings us from our outer world into our inside world. By way of the constant apply of respiration workout routines and pranayama we’re utilizing our college of pratyahara by binding our consideration to our breath. Assuming we have now change into sufficiently competent within the elementary practices of pratyahara from proficient asana apply, we will now apply binding our senses to the finer elements of our breath and refined our bodies. By specializing in night the drive and size of the breath, counting the size and variety of our inhalations and exhalations, utilizing correct yogic respiration cycles and breath waves, and turning into conscious of our breath and prana transferring via our refined physique, we’re working towards an intermediate stage of pratyahara.
The apply of Bhramari pranayama (buzzing bee breath) as outlined within the Hatha Yoga Pradipika can be thought-about a direct apply of sense withdrawal. Through the apply we use the fingers and fingers to tug in and shut our senses to the surface world. The fingers cowl the eyes and shut the ears to exterior consciousness. By buzzing like a bumble bee we’re conscious solely of the buzzing sound, bringing the agitated thoughts to a tranquil state and bringing the senses from the exterior to the inner.
A yogic meditation apply for pratyahara, although outdoors of the standard ashtanga system, is yoga nidra meditation. Yoga nidra, that means psychic sleep, is a apply that makes use of physique consciousness to withdraw from the exterior world and enter into the unconscious and unconscious realms of the psyche. Directions are given throughout this guided meditation to bind the senses to numerous issues corresponding to sounds and factors on the physique. By way of the method of binding the senses they’re routinely withdrawn, permitting the practitioner to utterly calm down and entry the deepest elements of the inner world. Yoga Nidra meditation is a robust apply that successfully trains and strengthens our capability for pratyahara.
As pratyahara is the gateway from the outer to the inside limbs, and dharana (focus) and dhyana (meditation) are the limbs that subsequently observe pratyahara, it’s to be assumed at this level that as a yoga practitioner our capability for withdrawing the senses is sufficiently developed as these practices are extra superior. Once more, as with asana and pranayama apply, there are additionally systemised methods in ashtanga system for the apply of meditation. Although many perceive the apply of meditation to be merely sitting nonetheless and watching the breath, that methodology capabilities extra as a apply in leisure and self consciousness relatively than a meditation apply. Whereas it’s a good preparatory train for meditation and can high quality tune the capability for pratyahara, we’re unlikely to get very far by simply watching the breath. As we have now discovered to manage our breath and have change into extra aware of our power physique and our circulate of prana, we will use pratyahara apply throughout meditation to start to coach the thoughts to bind. By eradicating our senses inwards, listening to our breath and feeling the feeling of prana transferring via the refined physique, we will start to focus our consideration on our shoshumna (central power channel) and chakras (central power centres). That is the start of studying to bind and droop the thoughts, which is the start of yogic meditation.
The sixth and seventh limbs are when the power to bind the senses transmutes into the power to bind the thoughts. As soon as all of the exercise of the thoughts is certain throughout meditation, the psychological fluctuations droop, and the eighth limb samadhi (of which there are eight sub-limbs), or absorption, might be skilled and practiced. That is how the mastery of pratyahara will in the end lead us from the outer limbs to the upper practices of yoga and inner exaltation. As is written within the Maitri Upanishad: “if the gasoline of the senses is withheld, the thoughts is reabsorbed into the guts.” When the senses are withdrawn via the apply of pratyahara, the inside limbs of yoga start to blossom and an entire different universe is positioned at our fingertips.