8 Limbs – Pratyahara – Withidrawing from the Senses

The fifth limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path of yoga, is Pratyahara. Pratyahara is an important bridge between the external focus of the previous limbs of yoga, such as asana (postures) and pranayama(breath exercises) to the more advanced practices of dharana(concentration) and dhyana (meditation). Pratyahara literally means withdrawing from the senses, to gain control over the senses to bring about calmness, peace and stillness. 

Prati meaning “against” or “withdraw”, and ahara meaning “food” or referring to anything we take in from the outside. Pratyahara also helps to provide an understanding of how much the mind is influenced by sensory input, imprisoned by the senses. Dictating our thoughts and feelings in ‘feeding’ it leading it to be trapped in the Kleshas, mental/emotional afflictions that continue the wheel of suffering. Our practice is to stop feeding the mind the things that keep it ignorance of it’s true nature, stuck in ignorance, attachment, aversion, egotism and fear. Encouraging the mind in a kind way to turn inwards and use the senses to be of service to the pursuit of practice, gaining mastery over external influences and allowing the practitioner to connect with their inner world, thereby creating optimal conditions for self-realisation. 

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Published on June 10, 2024