We often hear that yoga is useful to focus on the essentials, not to focus on material distractions in order to avoid all kinds of suffering, … But maybe you haven’t done that kind of dedicated session yet, and you’re always wondering when that’s going to happen. If this is your case, you absolutely have to read this article!
Indeed, we will see here thanks to the Pratyahara how to work on the withdrawal of the senses according to yoga sutras of Patanjali, as well as the focus on the internal members that are Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhî.
What is the Pratyahara?
5th member of yoga, Pratyahara is what connects the «external» members of yoga (bahiranga) to the «internal» members (antaranga). The external members are 4 (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama), while the internal members are only 3 (dharana, dhyana, samadhî).
The basic principle of Pratyhara is quite simple. The Sanskrit translation is a bit fuzzy, but the concept would be to withdraw from what one feeds on. By this we mean that our 5 senses are, in this world, in constant stimulation. The more they are stimulated, the more they need/want to be, we then enter a vicious circle where the outside world and the material constantly attract us.
We then become unable to distinguish between desire and need, in addition to inflicting new suffering on ourselves. These sufferings are caused by our constant projection into a «supposed» future that prevents us from fully satisfying our impulses that we cannot contain.
Our senses directed outwards, we will seek to direct their attention inwards precisely to protect our mind and to avoid unnecessary suffering. The practice of Pratyahara is an attentive and active listening of our internal state, while remaining serene to the maximum.
The benefits of inner listening
As explained earlier, inner listening allows us to focus on ourselves, on the essential, and to ignore all the distractions that the world offers us. In the long run, this will obviously make you happier, calmer, more serene, and will reduce your anxiety and even other ailments such as migraines and fatigue.
When to set his senses back?
This practice of stepping back and thinking of nothing but our present activity, we have all more or less experienced it in our lives. Whether it’s during an intensive reading session where we’re so absorbed that we forget everyone around us, or during a sports session where only our performance counts, you’ve already practiced it. Our senses no longer control us, and we feel much better at the moment.
To prepare for it consciously, there is nothing better than asana and pranayama practice including some exercises such as kapalabhati. These exercises will be the first step of your session to lock you in your yoga bubble and to think only in the present moment, to ignore the outside. Your body consciousness is perfecting, and you can feel your body more and more subtly.
If you focus on what your body tells you during the asanas, you will feed your consciousness of these feelings and not of the external stimuli. So this is the role of asanas. In addition to your physical development, they capture your attention on the inside. This phenomenon called sensory inputs makes us progress on our way, and leads us to the 6th and 7th limbs of yoga: Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation).
How to make the Pratyahara?
As always in yoga, many techniques and practices exist. Ashtanga Yoga is a good example. This varies according to preferences, because they are only tools to achieve the objective of interiorization. We focus our mind on one aspect and try to prevent our mind from dispersing. It is like a scan, we observe what is happening on our body, we listen to what our senses tell us, but we do not let the mind make judgment.
It is neutral, objective, we must neither think nor question, we only live the present firmly to protect us from the toxic and ongoing thoughts that come to parasitize us all day long and to pump us all our energy. So we observe, but we don’t calculate. We distance ourselves from all this, as if our soul were lifted above our body and saw the whole scene from an external point of view.
We have seen how our senses have this capacity to lose focus, and the suffering it can bring to our daily lives. The remedy remains, among other things, the practice of Pratyahara which is beneficial from all points of view, both psychologically and physically. If you would like to learn more about similar topics such as earth-anchoring meditation or would like to do yoga training in India, come visit our blog updated several times a week.
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