Yoga is an ancient practice developed for people to systematically reach their super-conscious-state and to have full control of the mind. Pratyahara is considered the fifth step of the eight steps (limbs) of raja yoga. It stands for ‘withdrawal of the senses from objects. Yogis practice pratyahara to quiet the mind and to focus inward to build brain power. Reaching the super conscious state, or Samadhi, one might run into old negativities or disorientations. By practicing pratyahara one can learn to purify and become strong enough to bear up against these mental difficulties which have a tendency to creep back in. Along the path to Samadhi (super-consciousness), if the individual isn’t mentally strong enough they are more likely to drop their practice, never reaching the super conscious state, the goal of all existence.
The eight limbs of raja yoga can help you reach the super conscious state–to go beyond the ordinary, to reach anywhere, to surpass time and space, to let go of the burdens, and to be without limitations.
The term pratyahara comes from two Sanskrit words: ‘ahara’ which means ‘food,’ or anything we consume, and ‘prati’ which means ‘away’ or ‘against’, the opposite of consuming. The purpose is in its meaning, to be able to withdraw from the external and bring our concentration inward. It involves a withdrawal from those things which does not serve us, that don’t nourish us, lift us up, or inspire us to be better.
There are four types of pratyahara:
1) Indriya-pratyahara — control of the senses
The first pratyahara practice is to withdraw from the wrong foods and consume more of the right foods. Consider the saying, ‘if your food can go bad it is good for you, if your food can’t go bad it is bad for you’. Basically, a reminder that we should always go for the simple, natural, wholesome stuff, not the processed, super carb-ed, with lots of weird chemical stuff. The food we are consuming on a daily basis MATTERS when trying to reach a higher level of consciousness. Another way to practice pratyahara is by fasting or detoxing, which involves removing toxic substances from your body to make room for better stuff. The process of reaching Samadhi includes forming great eating habits. It takes discipline and mind control to consume the right foods, especially in western worlds. It starts with mindfulness about the foods we consume and controlling our ‘desires’ despite all the marketing telling us to do otherwise. Nourishing your physical body the right way is hard. But this practice is highly encouraged and recommended to maintain a healthy, strong body.
PRACTICE PROPER DIET
The second type of pratyahara practice is knowledge and control of prana, known as pranayama. Vital energy is ‘prana’, it is our breath, found in all LIVING things. We absorb prana from almost everything we encounter- the food we eat, the people we touch, the water we drink, our everyday activities, sunlight, plants, etc. The nature of the mind is often unsteady, distracted, unfulfilled. Everything affects our mind. To get control of the mind, yoga prescribes breathing exercises, or pranayama techniques. Our bodies are like a powerful engine-if we feed it and work it properly, it will work. If we don’t, it will get rusty and collapse. Pranayama helps to purify the body. Without purification of the body it would be impossible to purify the mind and reach the end goal of Samadhi.
PRACTICE PROPER BREATHING
3) Karma-pratyahara — control of action
The third type of pratyahara practice is karma yoga which is the yoga of action and the path of selfless service. ‘Karma’ is the Sankrit word for ‘action’ and ‘doing’. Karma means every action has a reaction, you reap what you sow, and everything you give or do-with or without good intention-will come back one way or another. The practice of karma yoga involves being considerate, compassionate, generous, selfless. Karma yoga says you should offer selfless work to others without adding your own interest or self-centered desires into the mix. This is considered the most effective way to make progress in reaching the super conscious state.
PRACTICE POSITIVE THINKING
4) Mano-pratyahara — withdrawal of mind from the senses
The fourth and final type of pratyahara is the practice of consciously eliminating harmful feelings, opinions, ideas or impressions from the mind. This is definitely one of the hardest practices to master. When trying to reach Samadhi there are a few factors that may affect the process: lack of concentration, negative thinking, weak connection with spirituality or a lack of spirituality, repressed feelings and emotions, sluggishness, lack of strength, lack of purpose, overeating, or lack of meditation. To heal and withdraw from our external world we have to first learn and understand that all suffering originates from the mind. Second, we must acknowledge our non material possessions (look inward/seek the self). And third, after we have found who we are and our true purpose, we must learn to channel our energies into what matters most.
Practice pratyahara. Be at Peace. Be Present