Updated: Dec 11, 2021
Picture this: you’re relaxing on the couch, totally immersed in the peace and quiet of the present moment. Suddenly, you receive a notification from your phone that abruptly takes you from the present. You know it can wait and want to stay in your peaceful haven, but your mind urges you to check your phone. The next thing you know, you unconsciously find yourself unlocking your phone to discover it wasn’t worth getting up for! This is one example of why we practice pratyahara, or sense withdrawal. In a world of sensory overload, practicing pratyahara offers a sanctuary of silence.
Pratyahara is the fifth limb on Patanjali’s eightfold path to enlightenment and is defined as the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses. Pratyahara teaches us to approach stillness in the mind by shifting our attention away from external distractions and going within. This shift is an essential part for reaching higher levels of consciousness like samadhi, or deep meditation. Bringing more mindfulness to your daily life will only deepen your yoga practice.
When you are free of your mind and the senses, you are no longer a slave to the external circumstances around you. I’m not suggesting that you need to renounce the world and move to a cave to practice pratyahara, or that there is anything wrong with enjoying the sensory experience. But what if you were able to control your reaction to the sense organs and consciously choose how you use your energy? To still acknowledge the sounds, sights, smells, aversions, and desires without creating a disturbance in your body or mind?
The more you practice pratyahara, the more control you have over your senses. As a result, your inner state will be better cultivated. The happiness that we can receive by mastering ourselves lasts longer than any temporary sensory enjoyment. If we have that control, we have the freedom to find peace and joy within and be the best version of ourselves.