The 5th Limb of Yoga: Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal)

The 5th Limb of Yoga: Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal)

Pratyahara - Sense withdrawal

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means "eight limbs".  These eight steps act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful life.  They are guidelines on moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline.  They direct attention to health and spirituality.

The first 4 limbs of yoga help to prepare us to turn off our senses and quiet the mind for deep reflection.  

1. Yama (Ethical Standards): Non-violence, Truthfulness, Non Stealing, Continence, and Non covetousness

2.  Niyama (Self discipline): Cleanliness, Contentment, Energy/Enthusiasm, Self-Study, Surrender to the Spiritual

3.  Asana (Postures)

4.  Pranyama (Breath Awareness/Control)

5.  Pratyahara the fifth limb of yoga means sense withdrawal.  During this stage we draw our senses inward and away from the external world and outward stimuli.   We direct our attention internally cultivating detachment from our senses.  The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to look deeply at ourselves.  This withdrawal allows us to observe our cravings and habits that are detrimental to our health and which likely interfere with our inner growth.  

Start a practice, create a habit.

You can practice sense withdrawal by turning off one of the 5 senses; sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.  So, simply closing the eyes or focusing the gaze down on something that isn't moving can help to still the mind.  Ear plugs or using the hands to turn off sound is another great way to dull the senses.  One of the most common practices for withdrawal of the senses is bringing the attention inwards towards the breath, observing it without trying to control it, as connection with the external senses and stimuli are all gradually severed.

Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal) in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
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