Pratyahara in Yoga practices

Pratyahara or the withdrawal of the senses is the fifth element among the Eight stages of Patanjali`s Ashtanga Yoga. It is a bridge between the bahiranga (external) aspects of yoga namely yama, niyama, asana, pranayama and the antaranga (internal) yoga namely dharana, dhyana, samadhi. At the stage of pratyahara the consciousness of the individual is internalized in order that the sensations from the senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell don’t reach their respective centres in the brain.

Pratyahara leads to the control of action or ‘Karma pratyahara’ which entails not just control of motor organs to work, but also surrender of every action to the divine and performing it as an act of service. This leads to the final form of pratyahara -the withdrawal of mind or ‘Mano pratyahara’ which is practiced by consciously withdrawing attention from anything that is unwholesome and distracting for the mind caused by  the senses and directing it inwards.

There are many kinds of tools for pratyahara: trataka i.e. the practice of intense gazing at one point or object, mantra, japa, etc. They are all meant for purifying the sense awareness and making it turn inward. Sometimes one is able to hold pratyahara for some time, and then he finds afterwards that it does not work even if he sincerely follows the sadhana, so the practice of pratyahara becomes very difficult. If one can master the technique of pratyahara, then concentration becomes very easy. It is impossible to go on to dharana and dhyana unless the field of pratyahara is crossed.

Dr.Mahesh Chandra Panda

Yoga Practitioner

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About drmcpanda

Dr.Mahesh Chandra Panda Date of Birth:29.02.1948 Qualification:M.B.B.S.,M.D. Retd. (29.02.2008) Chief District Medical Officer Bargarh Orissa India
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12 Responses to Pratyahara in Yoga practices

  1. Training oneself is a very extensive and infinite subject.
    Yogic practices are one type of extensive trainings in which one may condition oneself.
    I have no idea or personal experience about pratyahara, but it appears entirely practical and possible.
    Thanks and love to Sara.

  2. Vinod Varma says:

    Natural tendency of mind is to look out, and acquire all that it see outside. It makes life hard as there are always newer things to acquire.

    Yadaa Samarate Chaayam Koormongaaneeva Sarvasah
    Indriyaaneendriyaarthrbhyastasya Pragnyaa Pratishthitaa
    Vishayaa Vinivartante Niraahaarasya Dehinah
    Rasavarjam Rasopyasya Param Drushtvaa Nivartate

    It makes life much easier for self and even for the world around.

  3. Satya says:

    Pratyahara, withdrawal of mind can be understood with the relevant Patanjali’s Raja Yoga Sutras:

    Svavishayaasamprayoge chittasyasvaroopaanukaara ivendriyaanaam pratyaahaarah (Sadhana Pada : 54)

    “Pratyahaara is the limitation of the senses of the mind, withdrawing them from their respective objects”.

  4. Prakash Padhan says:

    Dear Sir,
    Your article is very much useful for people like me who are Yoga Practitioner.
    At the same time comments of readers like Dr Madan Goyal ,Vinod Varma etc. are also useful.

  5. Thanks Mr. Prakash
    Have a nice day.

  6. Chandra Kumar Panda says:

    Sir,
    Namaskar.

    The article on “Pratyahara in Yoga practices” is a valuable lesson for those who have deeply gone to the depth of the theory and experiences on yoga practices.

    What enters to my common knowledge is that “Control over the senses and the mental aspect is a great gain on the part of those who really achieve it”; and the practice of yoga and meditation is the means to achieve the goal.You have cleared it that the Pratyahara is a bridging of the gap between the Internal & External aspects of Yoga.

    Now I am not so much inclined to these aspects nor it strikes to my mind. However it may help us as a learning aspect.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Chandra Kumar Panda

  7. V.Nageswara Rao says:

    Dear Sir,

    Prior to reading this article I didn’t have any idea about “Pratyahara in Yoga practices”.

    I am very much thankful to know about such a good practice in Yoga from this article, which will provide physical and mental peace and is very much useful to lead healthy life.

    With Regards,

    Nageswar

  8. Umakanta Sahu says:

    I don’t know about pratyahara. In case of yoga there is two parts pranayam and samadhi (yog). Pranayaam gives us physical strength if it is practised in proper manner. It is also a curable process of many diseases . Samadhi is the way to remove the stress means Spiritualism. It enhances mental power in any field with which one can control his feelings and emotion. Combination is samadhi yoga a perfect human. It is practical.

    Umakanta

    • Dear Umakanta,
      The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi. It is also known as Raja Yoga.You may refer The System of Raja Yoga Chapter of the book Meditations from the Tantras authored by Swami Satyananda Saraswati to know details.

  9. Let us consider a very realistic situation, a down-to-earth practical aspect. Suppose I am sitting quiet on the mat cross-legged, eyes shut, my awareness focused on my breathing and, suddenly at one point of time I feel a physical urge to urinate. My attention is diverted for the moment from my breath and a thought occurs – Now ‘I’ have to get up and go to the lavatory. Herein ‘I’ comes to picture. ‘I’ asserts itself. Where was it until now? From where did it spring up? Can we say that ‘I’ was totally absent and took birth only at that particular point of time? Or, was it there in a dormant state and got activated when the right stimulus was provided. Can the actual act of urinating take place unless ‘I’ plays a role there? If we analyse in this way, we shall see that ‘I’ is at the centre of every human thought, feeling, action. It is all a play of ‘I’. Even when we are taking a decision to stay aware of our breath ‘I’ is involved. The very thought-now ‘I’ will be aware of my breath-involves ‘I’. Now, is this individual ‘I’ of ego not a reflection of the universal ‘I’ of God? Are we to be averse to ego or to be grateful to it? Are we to understand ‘I’ in its true perspective or to fight it as a hindrance to self-realisation? 🙂 🙂

    • A monkey keeps jumping from branch to branch, tree-top to tree-top. It feels greatly elated doing so. At times its legs slip, its hold is loosened and it falls low down to the lower branch or to the ground. But, again it rises up and up. Thus it goes on, until a time comes when it feels tired. Only then it looks for a resting place. The ‘I’ within us is such a monkey. It keeps jumping from thought to thought, feeling to feeling, action to action. At last it gets tired. It looks for rest and the only place it gets rest in is upon breath. Slowly it merges with the breath and enters deep into the warm, cosy womb from where it had once been born.

      • Breathing continues even while we are not the least conscious of the operation. But when we decide, we can become conscious of it. The decision to become conscious of one’s breathing comes in the form of a thought. Now, three things are in operation -the actual process of breathing which is a purely physical operation, the thought that I need to be conscious of my breathing and the awareness that falls upon both the thought and the action of breathing. Out of these three with whom to identify oneself and say- I am THIS ? Pls give a deep thought to it and respond experientially. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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