Pratyahara: learning to control "indriyas"
"pratyahara" means "removing indriyas from material objects". Pratyahara is the stage at which an adept learns how to control the
of consciousness that are called "indriyas" in Sanskrit.
We experience this world with the help of five sense
These sense organs are bound to
experience external world when they come in contact with it. We have very little
control on them. Pratyahara teaches you to overcome bondage of the five
sense organs. It asks you to restrain the sense organs from taking their
respective experiences. You will be surprised to know that all of us have
experienced Pratyahara at some point in our lives.
Assume that you are reading an interesting story. You are so
engrossed in the story that you forget that somebody is knocking the door. Only
after the visitor knocks 3-4 times you come "out" of the story. When you are
absorbed in the story it is as if your ears forget their job. This is Pratyahara
though at a very gross level. Let me give you another example so that you can
sink in the concept. Suppose that you are watching an interesting movie on TV. Your eyes and ears are
totally stuck to the screen. Your mother calls you from kitchen but you simply
don't hear her voice. Some time later your friend comes to you see you. You
don't notice him unless he pats on your back. This is Pratyahara too.
One way to begin to understand pratyahara on a experiential level is to focus
on a familiar yoga pose,
savasana, the corpse pose. This pose is done lying supine on the floor and
is the practice of deeply relaxing. The first stage of this asana is about
physiological relaxation. In this stage, as one becomes comfortable lying on the
floor, there is first an awareness of the muscles gradually relaxing, then the
breathing slowing and
finally the body generally letting go of tension. While delicious, this stage is
only the beginning of the practice. In the second stage of savasana there is a
sense that one is withdrawing from the external world without loosing contact
with it. This is an experience of pratyahara.
How to achieve the stage of Pratyahara consciously?
There are several practices.
Trataka : meditation of third eye
Trataka is a very good technique to induce Pratyahara.
In the practice of trataka an object is gazed at until its subtle form manifests
in front of the closed eyes. The point of
concentration is usually a symbol or
object which activates the inner potential and can absorb the mind. The symbol
most commonly used is a candle flame, because even after the eyes are closed,
the impression remains naturally for some time, and then antaranga (internal)
trataka can easily be performed. The purpose of focusing the eyes on an external
object is to arouse the internal vision and make it absolutely steady by
stopping the eye movements.
As your practice develops you will find that for the period of practice you tend
to get absorbed in the act. You see only the flame of the candle and nothing
else. You are unaffected by external sound. Even if a mosquito bites you when
you are sitting for Trataka you will not notice it!
The second practice for Pratyahara is Ajapa Japa. Ajapa
Japa refers to focusing your awareness on breathing. It is also called as Soham
Japa. It is called Ajapa because breathing is something that we do
automatically. We never need to consciously inhale and exhale the air. The
technique to perform Ajapa Japa is as follows:
Sit in any meditative posture with spinal column and
Close your eyes
Affirm your mind not to allow random thoughts trouble
Gently move your attention to your breathing
As you inhale feel the imaginary sound Sooooo...
As you exhale feel the imaginary sound Haammmmm...
Feel the current of air brushing your nasal walls
Try to feel its fragrance (if any)
Let your breathing be rhythmic
As you inhale your abdominal wall will be pushed
forward and as you exhale it is pushed slightly inwards
You will not believe me but after some practice this technique gives
tremendous joy and calmness. It is as if your sense organs have taken a halt.
During initial stages you can use rosary (japa mala) to count your breath. Once
your practice is matured this is unnecessary. Ajapa Japa is a complete practice
Shambhavi Mudra is actually an advanced practice. People suffering from any
eye diseases should
consult doctor or experienced Yoga teacher
before practicing Shambhavi Mudra. The technique to perform this mudra is as
Sit in any meditative position with spinal column and
For few minutes practice Ajapa Japa
Slowly open your eyes
Turn your eyes slightly upwards as if you are looking
at the eye brow center. DO NOT PUT ANY STRAIN ON YOUR
Keeping the eyes open in this fashion move your focus
on breathing as in Ajapa Japa
Maintain this position as much as comfortable
In the above practice you may replace Ajapa Japa with Mantra Chanting (say Om).
Do not worry if you cannot fix your gaze at eye brow center. It is important to
keep the eyes open and focus your attention on Ajapa Japa or Mantra Japa. If you
find it difficult to turn the eyes upwards you can maintain them in half closed
Once your sense organs are under control you will find
that your spiritual progress is hastened. You can then perform higher sadhanas
easily. Often people directly jump to higher practices and then complain that
they didn't get any benefit. It is important not to hurry. Each of us is
different in terms of body and Karmic constitution. There can't be any rigid
timeline for individual spiritual progress. Keep practicing sincerely and one
day success will come.
Dated 25 October 2011