The Sage Patanjali has described Yoga in 8 limbs i.e. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, (Outward Yoga) Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and, Samadhi (Inward Yoga). Yoga is the panacea for everything in life.
Your goal could be;
- Living a good Life – Follow Yama and Niyama
- Physical Health – Do Asana
- Mental Health – Do Pranayama & Dhyana
- Spiritual Health – Practice Pratyahara & Dhyana
- Attaining Salvation/Moksha – Practice Pratyahara & do sustained Dhyana
Yoga not only makes us physically healthy, but it also makes us morally and ethically compliant.
Those who understand Yoga in its complete form are usually spiritually inclined. This is because it has nothing to do with the ‘so called religions’ which create divides.
Yoga is about human beings and therefore it unites. Its uniform for all. Those who practice will attain greater heights – may not be otherwise, but of course spiritually.
Yoga helps us encounter with the self whom usually we can’t in all other forms of physical activities, religious rituals, and exercises.
Self i.e. the Soul, not the body.
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What is Pratyahara?
Pratyahara, the 5th limb of Yoga is about the withdrawal of all senses.
We experience life with our senses. Therefore, we believe we are the aggregation of our bodily senses.
When we withdraw our senses, we become aware about our existence beyond our senses.
It is the Pratyahara, which makes us realise we are not what we see i.e. Body. We are what we experience i.e. Soul.
With Pratyahara starts our inward looking journey. This is the first of internal limbs of Yoga.
Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama all are the forms of external Yoga.
Inward journey starts with the practice of Pratyahara. The journey goes from there to Dharana, Dhyana, and finally Samadhi.
“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.” — B.K.S. Iyengar
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Why is Pratyahara Important?
The ultimate objective of Yoga is Samadhi i.e. Salvation, Liberation or Moksha, whatever you may call it.
It is not possible to reach the final stage if the senses are not under our control. The senses make us restless. They do not allow us to get away from our body centricity. One or the other senses want us to fulfil its desires.
The tongue wants us to eat tasty food, or the nose wants to smell something good, or the ears want to listen good music or the eyes want us to see beautiful sceneries/things, and the skin wants to touch smooth and soft things.
On the fasting days, all our senses other than tongue are active. Perhaps the need for our tongue is also active and it makes us make a plan for eating tasty food the next day.
One or the other sense keeps us occupied. It is the Pratyahara, which is making us ignoring senses and experience the self.
This is the most ignored limb of Yoga but this is the important limb of Yoga.
You may be a practitioner of Yoga i.e. Asana and Pranayama which is helping you maintain a good health. But to progress beyond just good health, practicing Pratyahara is not only important but a prerequisite.
This International Yoga Day, commit to expand your knowledge of Yoga. Commit to progress beyond just good health. That is a true celebration of Yoga day.
“Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.” Rolf Gates
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One thought on “The most ignored but the most important limb of Yoga”
Really loved that last quote! Great article! I really enjoyed the very lengthy one posted the other day. Thank you!