Our body is a doorway to our intellectual and spiritual aspects. It is both subtle and strong with a complex network of nerves, bones, muscles and organs with each having its defined set of roles. Every part of our body is in some way connected to our mind, body and soul and keep transmitting signals of any imbalance or a well- balanced state of internal set up which is reflected in our appearance, interactions and reactions.
Sage Patanjali gifted us with the eight limbs of yoga, which if followed religiously can lead to eternal happiness and well-being. These limbs are- Yama( ethical discipline), Niyama(right conduct), Asana(postures),Pranayama(Expanding the Breath), Pratyahara(withdrawal of senses), Dharana (concentration),Dhyana(Meditation),Samadhi(Absorption). Out of these the fifth limb Pratyahara is considered to be of prime importance as it plays a pivotal role in transcending the mind and soul.
Pratyahara is derived from Sanskrit word Prati means against and Ahara means anything our body intakes. Holistically Pratyahara means to gain balance and control of our senses and avoid them to take anything through its senses that can wither the mental and spiritual system.
Pratyahara is beneficial to overcome the negative associations, thoughts, perceptions and attachments which mislead a person and create gigantic troubles and miseries. Pratyahara is practiced wherein the practitioner withdraws his senses from outer world of illusions and noise and follows the internal path where his senses direct him. Once drawn within a person is able to experience the true nature of his being with all his senses and is able to find tranquility and contentment.
Moreover it aligns our senses and brings clarity to our mind paving the way for mental and spiritual advancement. Pratyahara includes Dharana and Pranayama to enable complete isolation and detaching thinking, willing and feeling aspects of our mind from misleading thoughts, people or situations. For this process the path of our mind needs to be diverted towards right with a gentle and conscious approach. It prevents mind from getting involved in situations of pleasure or pain. People practice Pratyahara in different ways like hast mudra, nidra yoga, savasana.
Pratyahara is not escaping from your present situation but a sensible way to make an intelligent choice of responses and reactions to favourable and unfavourable stimuli with a logical and unbiased analysis. Pratyahara empties our mind from deep-rooted perceptions, thoughts and experiences to make space for positive energies and focused approach. Pratyahara is like a door keeper who makes sure that right inputs are entering our system and filtering out the deceptive ones thereby enriching our lives and enhancing our yoga practice.