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Fifth Limb of Yoga: Pratyahara

We have looked closer at the first four, yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama.  These first four limbs are often considered to be more of the external limbs.  Pratyahara is the fifth limb of yoga, described as withdrawing the senses from the teachings of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. With the pratyahara, we are beginning to move towards the more internal limbs of yoga.  There are some that suggest that Patanjali wrote the eight limbs in this specific order because the limbs build upon one another, creating a natural progression.  While pratyahara focuses on withdrawing your senses, really it is easier to think of it meaning where is your awareness actually at?  Do you require all the external stimuli in your life?  Practicing pratyahara shows you that having all that extra white noise flooding your mind makes you a slave to it.  Pratyahara is about being aware of thoughts, sights, sounds, and feelings but actually detaching from them.  Just taking a step back or a moment from all the stimulus that is constantly happening and trying to see how you should be or act from it.  Pratyahara is letting all of the thoughts, judgements, etcetera, flow through us but not attach to us.  It is to observe but not contribute.  It is about letting the senses find us instead of reaching out and trying to constantly grab at the senses.  Pratyahara is about freeing yourself from the constant bombardment of external stimuli.  Cultivating your inner peace with this fifth limb shows us that everything we need is already in us.  If this sounds incredibly intimidating or way out there, don’t worry.  It is actually something you probably already are aware of and doing.  A good example of this is mindfulness. When you practice mindfulness, you are not attaching to emotions and thoughts.  You are aware you have them but then let them continue to move through you, not ruminating or expounding on the thought/feeling.  Meditation is another good example.  To apply this limb to your yoga practice, think of it this way.  While you are in a pose you might be thinking really hard…about the pose, the way it feels, if you are doing it right.  Instead of thinking about your chatty mind, practice pratyahara by taking your energy and focus from those thoughts and pouring it into the pose itself.  Don’t worry if you have to bring yourself back to practice this over and over again.  This is a lifelong lesson.  Practicing pratyahara teaches us how to correctly tune in, read and respond to our mental state.  It helps to bring more clarity, honesty, beauty, and authenticity to your practice of self-awareness.  Allowing yourself to be more aware, you can find a deeper sense of control and become more grounded.  By withdrawing from the senses, you actually create a deeper awareness for them.  This will flow over into all parts of your life, not just while you are practicing your asanas on the mat or while in a yoga class. For ideas on how to practice pratyahara on and off the mat, feel free to contact Krista at Or stop in for a class at AWG downtown studio in Crawfordsville.

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