“In a world of information overload, the yoga practice of pratyahara offers us a haven of silence”. Yoga Journal
The exploration of Pratyahara stands as a light, illuminating the pathway toward internal peace and heightened self-awareness. But what is Pratyahara?
Pratyahara, is a Sanskrit word meaning "withdrawal of the senses.” It is not just a practice but a gentle retreat into the sanctuary of our beings, offering a respite from the external noise that often cloud our mental and emotional landscapes.
Pratyahara allows us to discerningly mute the external chatter, enabling the subtle, internal voices of our authentic selves to surface and be heard. It invites us into a space where our wisdom, unadulterated by outer disturbances, becomes our guide, leading us toward deeper insights and spiritual clarity.
In practise you withdraw your mind inward by refraining from the urge to immediately react to incoming sensation. You approach stilling the mind by shifting the act of sensing from an external to an internal orientation. Easier said than done, yes, but possible? Absolutely.
How to get started or develop Pratyahara…
- Cultivate Mindful Yoga Practice
Incorporating a mindful yoga practice that accentuates inward focus can help to sharpen your senses, paving the way for a deeper journey into the art of sensory withdrawal. For example, during asana practice, rather than focusing on external alignment or how a posture looks, turn your attention inward, noticing the subtle movements and sensations within your body. Courses like “Meditation Teacher Training: Mindfulness and Concentration” or "Foundations in Teaching Mindfulness Meditation" might facilitate building skills to teach and practise yoga with an inward-focused approach.
💡 Tip: During your asana practice, close your eyes to enhance internal awareness. Feel into each movement, paying attention to the internal shifts and sensations.
- Engage in Guided Sensory Withdrawal
Begin with a guided meditation focused on sensory withdrawal, an essential initial step towards understanding Pratyahara. Under the guidance of an experienced teacher, learn how to gently withdraw your attention away from external stimuli, steering it inwards towards your inner world. Courses like “The Sanskrit of the Yoga Sūtras: Book 4” could delve deep into the understanding of this concept through ancient texts, providing insight into practical application.
💡 Tip: In your practice, consciously note each sense - sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Acknowledge the stimuli and then gently redirect your focus inward, perhaps to your breath or a mantra.
- Restorative yoga
Restorative Yoga is a great way of engaging in practical pratyahara by creating internal awareness, cultivating an intimate awareness of the self. The gentle, slow poses allow for silent introspection, fostering a quiet mind that naturally withdraws from external stimuli. Our upcoming Restorative Yoga - A Beginner’s Guide to Teaching and Self-Practice starts on 7th November.
💡 Tip: Gather and enjoy all the props! The use of props and long-held, passive poses minimises physical effort, enabling a detachment from physicality. Allow yourself to let go and disconnect.
By delving into our yoga practice, we enrich our understanding and application of Pratyahara, ensuring that this ancient wisdom is not just preserved but is vibrantly alive in each practice, each teaching moment, and indeed, each breath.
If you haven’t listened to Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay)’s inspiring, emotive and thought-provoking poem Please Call Me by My True Names you can do so here. We highly recommend it: The perfect start to your Sunday. 🧡