PRATYAHARA: 5th Limb of Yoga in the Yoga Sutras
My root teacher Swami Sivananda said this was the most important limb of yoga sadhana for once attained the mind is free to enter into meditation spontaneously.
Of course, like most things in earnest practice, it's easier said than done and descriptions of PRATYHARA are often incomplete as it's difficult to put into words.
Since I personally have only had the fortune of contemplating this limb, I'm going to have to take the Yogi Masters word for it.
While PRATYAHARA is often described as the "withdrawal of the senses," it's literal definition is "to not eat or not consume."
From what I gather from Sivananda rather than withdrawal from it may be more appropriate to think of PRATYAHARA as Mastery of the Senses. Meaning that all is felt, seen, experienced in its fullest but no longer appears as a separate object to grab onto but rather transforms into or is appreciated as its pure essential vibration. This then frees up the discriminating mind to experience the god nature, atman, though all of the senses simultaneously. The grooviest of groovy meditative states, y'all.
Pretty far out, right?
For those of us still playing with being a better person and not quite ready to dissolve into the cosmic reality but hope to be more discerning and still within the swirling chaos of life, where should we start?
An essential step, according to Sivananda, was to make your mind your friend. Rather than being angry with or upset by the illusions that pervade the egoic mind, to joyful and vigilantly observe the attachment and aversion of the senses. To understand the barrier between our inner and outer world, we have to practice being the observer, over and over again.

Another great teacher, Richard Freeman mentions it as the “release of the urge to gobble up what comes into our senses, to leave the sense fields and allow them to be just as they are.”
He goes on to say, “In pratyahara the sense objects themselves are released; they are not rejected nor are they grasped, but instead they are appreciated as pure vibration rather than objects. It is said that the perfection of pratyahara is to see or directly experience the atman or pure being through any or all of the senses.”
Sivananda discussed “making your mind your friend,” an ally on this difficult path of deep meditation. In this pursuit you return over and over and over and over again to the seat of the witness. Observing your internal mind stuff with curiosity and friendliness. Noticing what, if any emotions are associated with each thing that floats through the screen of the mind. Working here to observe rather than to cling on to, grab, or consume what passes through the screen.
Eventually with this practice we can intuit, “If I can observe my mind, if I can witness this mind chatter, perhaps there is a ME that is beyond the reach of these transient object identifications.”
Who is the one who SEES?

What is the ME behind the mind?

I’ve heard it said that prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when God talks to you.

Essentially the yogic tradition illuminates that within all of us is the divine spark of all creation.
God speaks to you as you! ⠀ 
The Advaita Vedanta school taught that knowledge of your divine nature leads to moksha or liberation.
Liberation from what?
Liberation from seeing yourself and others as separate from God. 
The methods of yoga practice were invented to dissolve the illusion of separate-ness and to whisper a bigger truth.

That we are all of us the Divine Spark of creation.

PRATYAHARA is ground zero for seeing the YOU that lives behind the mind so that you can then recognize it in all things. 
That we may then appreciate and receive each other as the Divine
PRATYAHARA, the Inner Journey makes way for the outer expansion of Pure Consciousness described in Limbs 6, 7, & 8 of the Sutras.



This will be our topic of exploration Asana wise in the month of January.

For a long while in my practice I was a very aggressive and frequent binder.
I was able to comport my structure to grab for dear life on to my top wrist and pull as hard as I could.
Until one day my shoulders were like...
“Nah dawg, we’re not really into this.”

It wasn’t that binding was bad for me necessarily but I wasn’t really exposing my shoulders and upper to mid back to the full buffet of movement delights they so enjoy.

So I stopped binding altogether for a while and just did a lot of other work to make my shoulders like me again.
After which I went back into the laboratory of my practice and with new insight began to explore a different approach.
Not better or worse just more informed and I dare say full of much less expectation of the outcome.

The biggest lesson is often that “doing more” or “going deeper” isn’t always the most “advanced” option.
Gotta use a lot of quotes there for emphasis.
Being present with nuance and subtly instead of barreling to the final destination of a pose at all costs is a sign you’re moving in the right direction.



Active Shoulder Mobility Techniques

Melissa McLaughlinComment