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  • Writer's pictureSatish Sewgobind

Pratyāhāra - Withdrawing The Senses

Let’s go one level deeper into Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. Just like the other blogs in this series, we will take a look at how our fictional character, Ben, applies this fifth limb of yoga.

Ben was mesmerized by the power of the breath the last time he took Yoga classes at the Yoga Peetha Happiness Centre.

“Take a deep breath in and go inward. Go deeper until you reach a point of total rest within yourself.”, these were the instructions given after the breathing techniques. He could not comprehend at first what was meant by going inward. Confused as he was, with trust and conviction that these tools of Yoga would work, he continued his practice.

After going inward Ben realized that his mind was bombarded with so many thoughts, feelings and desires. At some point he became so restless that he opened his eyes. Once he opened his eyes he knew that it was of no use so he quickly closed his eyes again. This was a really though moment for him because he is not used to having all these thoughts coming to him like a flood. He started questioning whether he always has this many thoughts and he started a discussion in his mind.

“Open your eyes whenever you feel ready. Take a deep breath in and with a smile on your face open your eyes gently on your own pace.”

Ben was not happy. He was definitely disturbed and went to ask the teacher for some clarity on this. His question was simple: ‘Have I done what I was asked to do? Because I was so distracted in my mind and I could not comprehend why so many thoughts and feelings were coming to me.’

Yoga teacher: ‘It’s OK. Whatever you feel or think, that is what is stored in your mind. Whenever we go inside we are confronted with what is already there. Your mind is like a storage facility where all the impressions of all the senses are stored up for different reasons. So do not pay so much attention to the heap of impressions you are witnessing in your mind. There is just one golden rule. Do not engage with whatever you think or feel. Just be a witness. Do some pratyāhāra and see the amazing results in your next meditation session.’

Ben got a proper introduction into what pratyāhāra is. It’s all about withdrawing the senses from the stimuli they get. For example, our eyes want to see things and our ears want to hear, our nose wants to smell and so forth.

What we need to understand is that our mind needs a break from all the information that is coming in through the senses. Since we are not doing that, we are hoarding impressions and in turn become aware of how restless we are when we have to go inward. This is the perfect recipe to never be at peace or enjoy full rest or even blissfulness.

So pratyāhāra is a must for everyone, especially in a time where we are constantly getting information from our computers, phones, tablets, cars, T.V. or everywhere else we go. It is important that we take time in a day where we go easy on our senses.

If you’d like to know more about the tricky senses we have, please do read this blog about the senses.

Do you have issues of going inward? Do you also feel like Ben whenever you get instructions of closing your eyes and going inward?

You are definitely not the only one. Many of us have this problem and the solution is already there. That is why this system of Yoga is complete in many ways. Ancient seers already knew how the mind works and that is why they devised the system of Yoga in such a way that everyone can make use of the vast tools that are available. It is everyone’s birthright to enjoy peace and silence from within.

Next time we will have a look at the next limb of yoga that Māhārishi Patanjali mentions, ‘Dhāranā’.

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