Our next limb of Ashtanga is pratyahara meaning "sense withdrawal" or "control over the external." This is particularly used in context to releasing the reaction of the mind and body when there is an influence happening within the physical world. In a yoga class, pratyahara is important especially in savasana. We use this to allow ourselves space to be undisturbed. Tuning yourself to practicing pratyahara is similar to hanging the “Do Not Disturb” sign outside of your hotel room after a long day of travelling.
The feeling you receive when you can extract yourself from the senses creates a positive emptiness. We usually think of emptiness as being depressing and lonely but only when we are completely empty can we consciously fill ourselves up with only what we need. Society floods us with negativity, self-judgement, and fear. Sometimes we will have a few gems of a compliment or the world’s favorite phrase “treat yourself,” but ultimately you must be the one who opens the door for this energy to move through you. We have adapted ourselves to keep our doors open so that there is no filter of what enters into your body and effects your being. Pratyahara is the filter that can lead us to the peace of our being.
Think of the time where you have felt upset or bothered by worldly influences and you just can’t seem to push it away. Even Jesus had to face this. In Matthew 16:23, Jesus tells Peter “Get behind Me, Satan!” You see Jesus had the strength to reject the evil. He recognized the Peter had only worldly concerns and did not follow Jesus’ path in alliance with God. Pratyahara can help us to be more like Jesus in this moment.
By practicing a patient temperament with the negative stimulation of the world around us, we can empty ourselves to receive more of God’s grace flowing through us. Rejecting the downfalls of the world leaves only room for self-love, peace, and recognition of the beauty that God has created in us. In this way, we may be in the world but not of the world.
Peace and Namaste,