“When separated from their corresponding objects, the organs follow, as it were, the nature of the mind, that is called Pratyahara (restraining of the the organs).”
Strolling through our journey of Ashtanga Yoga, we have now reached the bridge that connects external or Bahiranga Yoga, to internal or Antaranga Yoga. Having practised the first four limbs, by now we have achieved some level of mastery over our mind, where it is easier to have one-pointedness. The senses, which normally drive and distract our mind, can now be controlled by the mind to perceive what it wants them to perceive.
The yogic definition of Pratyahara (/prət̪jɑːɦɑːrə/) talks of it as the withdrawal of senses. They don’t get distracted by the external world anymore, and are directed by the mind at will. They don’t perceive anything independently. Senses in Yoga are not just limited to the five senses that we know, but also include the powers of action, where the body acts from. It’s just like in a beehive, where all the bees follow the queen bee, they are completely under her command. Think of your mind as the queen bee, and your senses as the worker bees, to give you a visual (ha! Irony!) of what Pratyahara is like. The senses also don’t just withdraw from the outside world, they are no longer interested in it. They are no longer overwhelmed by the need to buy everything whenever they enter a bookstore, even though they are not going to read them all, and they will just sit on the shelves collecting dust (maybe that’s just me).
However far-fetched an idea it may seem, it is possible because of all the training you gave your mind and your senses in the first four steps. And Pratyahara strengthens your mind for higher yogic practises that require absolute one-pointed concentration. Simple everyday practises can make you experience Pratyahara, little by little. Not allowing yourself to be too distracted, and making sure you focus on your work, or any task you do, completely and unconditionally. Closing your eyes, and sitting in silence for just 10 minutes, everyday, without perceiving anything around you. Telling yourself, ‘Control! Control! Control!’ when scrolling through a sale on Amazon. Not mindlessly scrolling through social media all day, everyday, and bombarding yourself with information that has absolutely no relevance to your life whatsoever. See? Simple!
Building focus and concentration by controlling and withdrawing your senses is the key here. To master it, you just have to start by closing your eyes.
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