In yoga terms pratyahara is the ‘withdrawal of the senses.’ It is considered one of the eight limbs of yoga as passed down in the teachings of Sri Patanjali. Pratyahara allows one to move into the area where the next step is that we begin to notice or see the "fluctuations of the mind".
Yoga when practiced within the context of the 8 limbs of Yamas , Niyamas , Asanas, Pranayama , Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, encourages us to bring the underlying essence, called peace/liberation/source/oneness etc., into our daily living.
So what is Pratyahara?
We can begin to look into the two components of Pratyahara, withdrawal and senses. The five senses as we know in the physical or gross body /realm are seeing, hearing, touch, taste and smell. These senses are directly connected to the organs of the body. Indirectly these senses combine to create other sensations e.g sense of balance, temperature, pressure, pain etc.
So how could one withdraw from the 'senses' and which are the various techniques developed to bring about such withdrawal. All humans might be similar in their feelings, thoughts and their expression but at the same time understanding the amazing complexity, which is to be human and we realize that "different strokes for different folks" is not a cliche.
Returning back to Pratyahara. Withdrawing from the senses is not the same as "shutting out", instead it begins with the "opening" of the awareness of the senses. Acknowledging each of the senses and their underlying complexity we look for an anchor that would hold us when we withdraw the senses. The anchor replaces the continuous chatter of the mind. Use of breath awareness in the inhales and the exhales, keeping attention on a candle flame, picture of a deity or a mantra, are some of the examples of such an anchor. The anchor begins to build the mind muscle that allows us to ‘focus.’
Here we begin to see why do we need to practice "Pratyahara?" We live in a world where our time is rationed. Sometimes the conflicting demands on the time does not allow us the luxury of savoring and lingering or just taking "our sweet time". We are not able to process our experiences, instead we skim on the surface, moving from one ‘excited’ state to another.
Being continuously ‘connected’ has its downside of not having a free moment unless we consciously turn off the cell phones and other media. Even with this disconnection our minds have a challenge, the mind is a highway of racing thoughts.
So where can one look for, to create a feeling of "timelessness"? Besides the vacation, daydreaming, and visualization, which itself generally happens at the cost of time, practicing Pratyahara seems to be a sustainable mode of being. Regular practice builds a conscious awareness, which allows one to focus on the task/moment and not be bogged down by the emotional energy of what happened and will happen in another moment or hour. It develops the Zen way of being here and now. We begin to connect the dots of life and living by understanding Pratya.hara.
Life unfolds each moments and the best laid plans have no strength to withstand this unpredictability of life.
Our drives and desires. Hungers and conflict begin to become a little more clear when we understand not only our physiology, but the senses and their workings.
A space or a pause starts to be felt This pause is the freedom we all seek. For some its the peace of mind.