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Pranayam - Pranayam
Written by Dr. Kashinath Samagandi   
Saturday, 25 August 2012 12:08

Benefits of Pratyahara


Benefits of PratyaharaYoga is a science of spiritual practices for inner growth. Classical yoga system incorporates eight limbs. ‘Pranayama’, the expansion and mastery of vital energy, is the fourth limb, following ‘Asana’ (a steady seated posture) and preceding ‘Pratyahara’ (withdrawal of the senses.)

‘Pratyahara’ is probably the least known amongst Astanga yoga practices. Have you ever attainded a class in ‘Pratyahara’? Have you ever seen a book on ‘Pratyahara’? Do you perform ‘Pratyahara’ as part of your yogic practices? Yet ! unless we understand Paratyahara, we are missing an integral aspect of Astanga yoga without which the system cannot work. As the fifth of the eight limbs, Pratyahara occupies a central place. Some yogis considered it as Bahiranga yoga and other as Antaranga yoga. Both classifications are correct, for Pratyahara as the key between the external and internal aspects of yoga sadhana. It shows us how to move from one to the other.

It is not possible to jump directly from ‘Asana’ to ‘Dharana’, ‘Dhyana’ and ‘Samadhi’. So, to make this transition, the breath and senses, which link the body and mind, must be brought under control and trained properly. This is where ‘Pranayama’ and ‘Pratyahara’ have their role to play. Through Pranama, we control our vital energy and impulses, while with Pratyahara we gain mastery over the senses-both are prerequisites to a successful Meditation.


Pratyahara is derived from two Sanskrit words: ‘Prati’ and ‘Ahara’, with Ahara meaning food or anything taken into ourselves from outside and Parti, a preposition meaning away or against. Together they mean ‘weaning away from Ahara’ or ‘gaining mastery over external stimuli; It is classically compared to a turtle withdrawing its limbs into its shell-the turtle’s shell is the mind and the senses are the limbs. The term is usually translated as “withdrawal from the sense.”

Tools to Practice  Pratyahara

 Ajapa japa:

It is normally translated as continuous repetition, but principles involved in it are to be considered initially. You need to complete the preparatory stages of body awareness by Asnana and awareness  of the breath. Which is the in it ial process of journey within Initially, the breath is experienced as a flow in the nasal passages, next as flow in the frontal psychic passage between the navel and throat and finally as flow in psychic passage, extending from Mooladhara to Ajna chakra. Here, the external movement, the external awareness of breath is internalized and experienced

In the psychic passage. Later, ‘mantra’ which is a sound or vibration of power is added to prevent the self induced dissipationo f concentration of the mind which is running after this thought or  the sensory experience of the body. So Ajapajapa covers the gross, external aspect
Using physical activity and breathing process to internalize the awareness. The mantra is added to avoid the self induced mental fluctuation.

Yoga-nidra (meditation):

It is another practice of deep relaxation which is described briefly from the ‘Prathyahar’ point of view. Although, there are various stages of Yoga-nidra, only few are explained because, Yoga-nidra belongs to the ‘Prathyahara’ group as well as the ‘Dharana’ and ‘Dhayana’ group. The Prathyahara group of Yoga-nidra practices includes awareness of the body, rotation of the mind through the various parts of the body, breath awareness and the awakening of different of the mind through the various parts of the body, breath awareness and the awakening of different physicaland psychological sensation and feelings, such as heaviness/lightness, heat/cold, pleasure/pain. In Yoga sutras, such impressions are termed as  Pratyahar (cause of destruction/fluctuation of the sense and mind). Even in the highest meditative state of Samadhi, Pratyaya continues to exist. The three divisions of Yoga-nidra aim at the removal of Pratyaya from the conscious (external) plane, subconscious (subtle) plane and the unconscious or causal lane. In Pratyahar, a state of Yoga-nidra there is a release of stored impressions of sensory or mental experiences.


The practice of gazing steadily at one point is known as Trataka. Trataka fall sin  to two groups: ‘Pratyahar’ and D’harana’. Pratyahar Trataka is a gazing at an external point, whether a candle, symbol, Yantra or Mandala. There are different forms of Trataka which areex plained in Hata Yoga Pradeepika, Gheranda Samhita. Trataka aims to control the dissipation that occurs when we become aware of forms. Form is seen by everyone and recognized as something that is visible to everyone. It symbolizes the state of mental dissipation.

Antar mouna:

It is translated as ‘lnner silence’. This technique is related to thought awareness; observations of thoughts, stopping of the thoughts, bringing a thought to the mind, following an external thought and following it to its source. The practice of Antar mouna is related to the awareness of the idea field, just as ‘Trataka’ is related to the form of image field. By following a thought, we try to go to the source and ultimately remove the Pratyaya which has created that thought. Thought is like an onion with many layers stuck to each  other. The onion seems very solid, hard and strong but as you start peeling off one layer at a time the onion becomes smaller and smaller until nothing remains.

Bramhari Pranayama:

Sit in a suitable relaxed posture like Padmasana (lotus pose) or Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose). Cover your ears by pressing tragus with the help of thumbs of your hands. Place your index fingers on the forehead  and let the remaining 3 fingers close your eyes. Inhale through both the nostrils, taking a real slow deep breath. Keep your mouth closed and begin slowly exhaling, making humming sound of a bee like “hmmmm”.
Pratyahara itself is termed as Yoga, as it is the most important limb in ‘Yoga Sadhana’.

It’s a forgotten but an important limb which controls the mind and senses and enable us to move further in to the spiritual limbs of Astanga yoga. Its an transition limb of Antaranga Yoga. To practice Prathyahara Mantra Japa, Ajapajapa, Antra Mouna, Antar Trataka, Yoga Nidra and Bramhari Pranayama are considered as very important tools.

Source Nisargopchar Nov-2011

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