When you leave it to its own devices, your mind will probably focus on external stimuli like conversations, television and noises on the street. Even in yoga class, you might focus on a conversation in the back of the room or a distracting noise instead of your pose or meditative exercise.
Pratyahara, the fifth limb in Patanjali’s eight limbs, teaches you to stop focusing on those external distractions and to give your mind a rest from them for a time. You turn your focus inward and let go of everything going on in the world around you. This limb involves withdrawing from the senses. You stop focusing on sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.
Instead, you focus within, which you can accomplish through pranayama – the fourth limb – or through other methods like focusing on one sense instead of many or focusing on the third eye. Once you go inward, you’ll also have to control your thoughts. This practice is part of the next limb called Dharana, which we’ll focus on next week.
Different types of Pratyahara exist, including:
- Indriya Pratyahara: This type of Pratyahara involves withdrawing from the senses themselves.
- Prana Pratyahara: This type focuses on a different way of blocking the senses. Through this method, you control the flow of vital energy (Prana) because controlling it will control the senses.