Tag Archives: Pratyahara

pratyahara?

Pratyahara

Pratyahara is derived from two Sanskrit words: prati and ahara, with ahara meaning food, or anything taken into ourselves, and prati, a preposition meaning away or against.

Pratyahara or the ‘withdrawal of the senses’ is the fifth element among the Eight stages of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, as mentioned in his classical work, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali composed in the 2nd century BCE. It is also the first stage of the six-branch yoga (ṣaḍaṅgayoga) of the Buddhist Kālacakra tantra, where it refers to the withdrawal of the five senses from external objects to be replaced by the mentally created senses of an enlightened deity. This phase is roughly analogous to the physical isolation phase of Guhyasamāja tantra.

For Patanjali, it is a bridge between the bahiranga (external) aspects of yoga namely, yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and the antaranga (internal) yoga. Having actualized the pratyahara stage, a practitioner is able to effectively engage into the practice of Samyama. At the stage of pratyahara, the consciousness of the individual is internalized in order that the sensations from the senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell don’t reach their respective centers in the brain and takes the sadhaka (practitioner) to next stages of Yoga, namely Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (mystical absorption), being the aim of all Yogic practices.

From Wikipedia Article Pratyahara

Isolation Tank

An isolation tank is a lightless, soundproof tank inside which subjects float in salt water at skin temperature. They were first used by John C. Lilly in 1954 to test the effects of sensory deprivation. Such tanks are now also used for meditation and relaxation and in alternative medicine. The isolation tank was originally called the sensory deprivation tank. Other names for the isolation tank include flotation tank, float tank, John C. Lilly tank,REST tank, and sensory attenuation tank.

The flotation tank was developed in 1954 by John C. Lilly, a medical practitioner and neuro-psychiatrist. During his training in psychoanalysis at the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Lilly commenced experiments with sensory deprivation. In neurophysiology, there had been an open question as to what keeps the brain going and the origin of its energy sources. One hypothesis was that the energy sources are biological and internal and do not depend upon the outside environment. It was argued that if all stimuli are cut off to the brain then the brain would go to sleep. Lilly decided to test this hypothesis and, with this in mind, created an environment which totally isolated an individual from external stimulation. From here, he studied the origin of consciousness and its relation to the brain.

Peter Suedfeld and Roderick Borrie of the University of British Columbia began experimenting on the therapeutic benefits of flotation tank usage in the late 1970s. They named their technique “Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy” (REST).

From Wikipedia Article Isolation Tank

Further Reading

John C. Lilly and E.J. Gold’s Tanks for the Memories: Flotation Tank Talks
The chapter “Altered States” from Richard Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

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vayu pratyahara

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Pratyahara is a Sanskrit word that means “to hold back,” and it denotes the fifth limb of Patanjali’s classical eight-limb system of yoga. Simply put, the practice requires you to detach your normal outwardly directed awareness from the world around you, retract it, and redirect it inward toward the self.

The result of such efforts is that the senses—your sight, hearing, taste, and the like, which trot along behind awareness like loyal dogs—naturally turn away from the world, too. This effectively cuts you off from distractions in your environment, collects your usually scattered awareness, and prepares you for the sixth and seventh limbs of classical practice, dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation). The process is traditionally likened to a tortoise pulling its head and limbs into its shell. Vyasa, Patanjali’s earliest commentator, aptly compares our senses to a swarm of bees, equating our awareness with their queen: “Just as bees follow the course of the queen bee and rest when the latter rests, so when the mind stops, the senses also stop their activity.”

While this makes for some fine imagery, Patanjali and his commentators did little to clarify how exactly to practice pratyahara. Thankfully, there are a few concrete techniques. One of them is recorded in the Yoga-Yajnavalkya-Gita (“Yoga Song of Yajnavalkya”), which takes the form of a teaching dialogue between the sage Yajnavalkya and his wife, Gargi.

Yajnavalkya’s technique, called vayu pratyahara (wind withdrawal) or prana pratyahara (life force withdrawal), involves fixing your awareness and your breath sequentially on 18 vital points, called marmans, in your body. Varying sources highlight different points (traditional Ayurvedic sources name 107), but Yajnavalkya’s 18 marmans are the big toes, ankles, midcalves, “roots of the calves,” knees, midthighs, perineum, “center of the body,” generative organs, navel, heart center, “throat well,” root of the tongue, root of the nose, eyes, spot between the eyebrows, forehead, and crown of the head. Yajnavalkya suggests following the sequence from the crown to the toes, but many of my students prefer climbing from toes to crown.

To experience vayu pratyahara, take any comfortable seated yoga pose or your favorite reclining position, such as Savasana (Corpse Pose).

If you like, touch each marman so that each energy center is clearly anchored in your awareness. You could even imaginatively invest each point with a favorite deity, teacher, or mantra, which is another traditional practice. Then pinpoint your awareness in your big toes for the ascending sequence (or the crown of your head if you’re descending) and imagine you are breathing into and out of them.

Consciously climb the 12-rung marman ladder to your crown. You can run through the points rapidly, spending just a breath or two at each one, or if you have the time and inclination, you can linger at each point for several breaths or longer. The former version of the practice challenges your ability to quickly and decisively direct both your awareness and breath; the latter challenges your ability to concentrate both awareness and breath over time.

Excerpts from Yoga Journal Article Still Life by Richard Rosen

 


pratyahara

Pratyahara is situated directly in the middle of the eight limbs, its central position indicates that it is the point where the outer can become inner (and also the reverse). Pratyahara is the bridge limb that shows you how to use asana and pranayama to find dhyana and samadhi, how to use your postures for concentrating your mind, for accurately tuning in, for reading, and responding to your mental states.

Thus you can cultivate a more intimate relationship to your experience of sensation as a way inward towards concentration, towards buddhi, mental clarity, and thus towards self or individuation. Using your body and your breathing to change your relationship to the sensory information you receive helps you bring more mind, more psychology, more honesty and authenticity to your awareness and your self-reflection. You use these new dimensions, this new inner directed consciousness to find more accurate physical alignment that brings deeper significance, more beauty and more grounded weight to your postures and movement.

Lastly, one final unexpected gift from the fifth limb emerges from another less common translation of the word pratyahara: to recover the senses. To recover the senses as opposed to withdrawing them conveys a different flavor to pratyahara by suggesting that the senses are “lost” or somehow need to be re-found or reclaimed…

Sensual could then be an integral part of pratyahara, to cultivate your sensuality could mean to thoroughly apprehend and appreciate what you, your whole body, your nose, eyes, ears, heart, loins, and viscera takes in from the world as means of accurately reflecting soul in your depths and spirit in your aspirations. In fact purusa or spirit, the highest conception of samkhya yoga is also known as The Enjoyer. Who better than purusa to be essentially sensual, to consummately know and appreciate the myriad forms of creation by adopting the ultimate asana, the seat or the perspective of the supreme enjoyer, the one who takes it all in pure, bold, unashamed and unblemished enjoyment.

Excerpt From Elephant Journal Article, Pratyahara: Withdrawing The Senses And Truly Enjoying Your Yoga, By David Garrigues