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Pratyahara is the practice of drawing the senses inward. When you decrease stimulation to the senses, your inner light shines. If we truly quiet the mind and withdraw from the stimulation of the senses, the inner flame that we all have within has a chance to be revealed and we are open to infinite wisdom. Pratyahara brings us to silence, preparing us for meditation.
What is Pratyahara?
The senses are how we define our world. When the ego directs outward, we believe we are all the actions we take and we slowly lose touch with our true selves…who we really are. When we neglect to take time for silence, we forget that we are not our actions, but that we are who we are. This can be very dangerous for us, for if we lose these abilities or these “things” that we believe we are, then our world crumbles.
The goal of Pratyahara is to notice the thoughts and feelings that arise during this exercise. Just accept them without judgment, and patiently place them aside to be dealt with later. We are not these feelings or ideas. These are the waves of the mind. The ultimate goal of yoga is to calm the waves of the mind. Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha.
There is a serious lack of direction in the Yoga Sutras about this concept. Only two verses are dedicated to this concept and it only mentions the benefits of this practice…not how to actually do it.
Overall, it is important as a yogi to decrease the distractions of the mind. That’s pretty hard these days when there is so much information coming at us from all directions. My overall suggestion? Turn off the TV, put your phone down and spend time in silence. Talk with your family, listen to relaxing music or read a feel-good book. Try a Social Media Purge. Slow down the speediness of your life and enjoy moments of peace. Put them in your planner and make it a daily habit!
Traditional Yoga has developed techniques to address the idea of Pratyahara. Including Yoni Mudra, Candle Gazing, and Auditory Focus. We all have an affinity to different practices. So check out what one works for you.
- Yoni Mudra: Sitting in a relaxed position, place the index fingers over the eyelashes, the middle fingers on the bridge of the nose, the ring fingers above the lips and the small fingers below the lips and the thumbs gently over the ears. Keep the hands relaxed to help relax the arms. Place the awareness on the middle of the chest and breathe slowly. The fingertips symbolically seal the senses allowing the mind to take a break from sensory input. Begin practice from three to five minutes and if you’d like slowly increase. Come out of the practice slowly and notice how the senses influence the quality of the mind.
- Candle Gazing: Sit twenty inches from the flame of a candle placed at eye level. Observe the flame with the eyes. While focused on the flame, bring your awareness to a flame in the center of your chest. Soften the eyes and let the images come to you. Close the eyes if you feel any strain.
- Auditory Focus: Find a music track that you enjoy that has a continuous tone in the background. I like the last track on this album HERE and have been using one just like it for over a decade. Sitting in a relaxed position, close your eyes and focus on that background tone, try not to allow the other sounds on the track distract you from your focus. Begin practicing from three to five minutes and slowly increase the duration if you like.
Pratyahara is an often overlooked element in current yoga practices. But it is a very powerful method to prepare the mind and body for concentration and meditation. Spend some time with the above exercises and see what one is right for you.