Part 5: Pratyahara
As discussed in the Introduction post, this series will explore the eight-fold path of yoga philosophy. So far we have discussed the Definition of yoga, the Yamas (codes of restraints / universal morality), the Niyamas (practices of self-training), Asana (postures), and Pranayama. Today we will discuss Pratyahara.
THE EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA:
1. Yama : Universal morality
2. Niyama : Personal observances
3. Asanas : Body postures
4. Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
5. Pratyahara : Control of the senses (today’s focus)
6. Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
8. Samadhi : Union with the Divine
What is Pratyahara?
Pratyahara refers to withdrawal of the senses. It teaches yogis how to practice non-attachment to external objects, taking us from the outside to the inside, so that the yogi can travel within and connect with the true Self.
This concept can be seen in other Eastern philosophies as well, including Buddhism.
Learning to practice non-attachment can be very difficult, especially in the Western world. Take a minute and think about it: think about all of the things that you have in your life, whether its your car, your clothes, your shoes, furniture…even the relationships that you have. All of these things are external objects that distract us from our inner world. Learning how to restrict the senses is quite a powerful way to control your attachments to these things.
Here are some suggestions from Yoga International on how to practice Pratyahara:
- Skip a meal once a week or give up a favorite food.
- Observe silence. Sign up for a silence retreat, stay quiet for a day or two on a regular basis, or observe silence for a set period of time every day, say from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.
- Avoid gossip and negative remarks.
- Practice periods of voluntary celibacy.
- Observe compassion in your thoughts, speech, and actions.
And I love these suggestions as well: 32 Ways to Practice Pratyahara
Remember, the more that a person can learn to let go of the attachment to the external world and material possessions, the more at peace they will be. This allows for the focus to be on the Self, the Divine, and a healthy expression of love for other beings.
Which of the above suggestions do you think would be hardest to practice? Comment below!
Skip ahead to What is Yoga: Part 6 HERE