This weekend I’m going on a creative Pratyahara Retreat: Unspoken. Two days of silence, yoga, meditation and painting.
Pratyahara is the 5th limb of yoga and it is concerned with taking us from the outside to the inside, with withdrawing the senses, so that the yogi, like an inner-naut, can travel within and find the Self.
Pratyahara is built brick by brick through yama niyama, asana and pranayama, then utilized in dharana dhyana and samadhi. It is the fifth petal of yoga, also called the “hinge" of the outer and inner quest. It is the pivotal movement on yoga’s path.
In Sanskrit, pratyahara literally means “to draw toward the opposite”. The normal movement of the senses is to flow outward and this limb is concerned with going against that grain.
Pratyahara is mano-vrtti nirodha, it directly works from the mind like a pneumatic tool to cut its outgoing habits by changing its direction to penetrate inwards towards the core.
Withdrawing the senses helps us come into the present moment without any filters, that is what Pattabi Jois meant, to come to a blank state where there is no projection, where we simply are.
Pratyahara is a culture on the mind. As I see it is a “new wiring”, a creation of a new habit of sorts where we change directions as the attention constantly goes out and we rein it inside.
Pratyahara has to be firmly established on asana and pranayama which disciplines the organs of action, perception, and mind.