Pratyahara means sense withdrawl or drawing the senses inward. It is the practice of withdrawing the senses from outside stimulation for the purpose of focusing on your internal development. As Sharon and David, the co-founders of Jivamukti, write, “Through pratyahara we can journey from outer fixation to inward revelation.” Essentially, the senses pour information into the mind, creating how we view the world. Our senses take in so much and fill our minds with so much stimulation that it can distract us away from our spiritual development. If we focus on the superficial differences that our senses relate to us, we forget the true universality of all beings.
Sense withdrawal is the 5th limb of Ashtanga yoga. It quiets the mind and retains prana (energy) within the body. When the senses are under your mastery, you are free from the control of the external and can understand and experience happiness as coming from within. After the senses are mastered, you can begin to refine the mind for the practice of concentration and meditation, the next limbs on the 8 limb path of Ashtanga yoga. Practice quieting down, emptying your mind, and controlling the reactions and mental fluctuations that come from sense experience. Instead of relying on sensual gratification for happiness, find it from within. Observe the power of the sense in your everyday life and subtly shift away from depending on them for happiness.