The 8 Limbs of Yoga Part 5 Pratyahara

Pratyahara: “the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses.”

“Pratyahara is twofold. It involves withdrawal from wrong food, wrong impressions and wrong associations, while simultaneously opening up to right food, right impressions and right associations. We cannot control our mental impressions without right diet and right relationship, but pratyahara’s primary importance lies in control of sensory impressions which frees the mind to move within.” [1]

Even as a tortoise draws in its limbs, the wise can draw in their senses at will. Aspirants abstain from sense pleasures, but they still crave for them. These cravings all disappear when they see the highest goal. Even of those who tread the path, the stormy senses can sweep off the mind. They live in wisdom who subdue their senses and keep their minds ever absorbed in me. – Bhagavad Gita, Chapter Two, Verses 58-60

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“In Sanskrit, pratyahara literally means “to draw toward the opposite“. – B.K.S. Iyengar

It is incredible how my life seems to be running parallel to each weekly topic of the 8 Limbs in this series. Although I understand the concept of Pratyahara on the mat, (Savasana being my favorite pose), this is another concept that crosses over into our everyday lives.

As I shared in my last blog, I am in the thick of training to become a Victim Advocate for Alternatives To Violence. This is a wonderful local organization, which provides help to those who have survived Domestic Violence. I am truly honored that they have accepted me into their program.

That being said, we have discussed some very heavy topics. Because of such heaviness, part of our training was on self-care, which included setting boundaries.

Most, if not all of us in the group are very empathetic and must set some strong emotional boundaries if we wish to be successful as advocates. Some of the situations we will face are grave. Some will involve children. We discussed how our first instinct when it comes to children would be to hug or hold a child. We also discussed the potentially negative impact such an act can bring upon ourselves as well as the family involved in the incident. So, we must “draw toward the opposite” action.

This discussion resonated well with my research into the practice  of Pratyahara.


Practicing Pratyahara

Pratyahara has been credited to helping others overcome anxiety and gain better concentration/focus. There are many traditional forms of Pratyahara as well as modern-day suggestions:

  • Pranayama -There are various breathing techniques. Try this one:
    • When you breath out, at the end of the exhale, breath out a bit more. This is one way to eliminate toxicity, both in mind and matter.
  • Savasana Body Scan
  • If you really want to challenge yourself and have ten days, go on a Vipassana Meditation Retreat
  • Mindful Eating – Eat your meal in silence and allow yourself to chew slowly, tasting your food.
  • Mindful Cleaning – Removing clutter.
  • Turn off all electronics for an hour and sit in silence. Avoid reaching for your mobile phone, tablet, laptop as difficult as it might be.

I once knew a man who loved guns. He purchased a particularly special gun and placed it in his cabinet. Once a week, for several weeks, he would go to the cabinet and stare appreciatively at this gun. Then he would choose another gun to use at the shooting range. As much as he wanted to use the special gun, he challenged himself and did the opposite, using another instead. This would be a form of Pratyahara.

So we can practice Pratyahara by not purchasing the beautiful dress online when we want to or  turning on Netflix when we feel the need to escape. Instead, turn within, withdraw from the energy of senses.

My sobriety is a form of Pratyahara. You see, my nature is to drink and use drugs. One day at a time, I choose not to. It has gotten easier over the years, yet I still know that I am only one drink or drug away from relapse. So I continue to work my steps and participate in the program of recovery, passing it on to newcomers who do not yet know how to draw toward the opposite”.

How do you see yourself practicing Pratyahara? Can you commit to starting with one item a day for 21 days?  I wish you all the serenity of this practice. Stay Blissful My Friends – E

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