Pratyahara | Yoga and Withdrawal of the Senses

Published: Dec 28, 2021 | Revised: Feb 17, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

Statues that depict withdrawal of the senses

Pratyahara, or Withdrawal of the Senses, is the fifth step in classical Ashtanga Yoga (Sutras of Patanjali). This step (technique or limb) in Patanjali’s system is considered necessary to be able to carry out the next stage of Yoga, which is called Dharana or single-pointed focus and concentration.

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The Pratyahara practice is aimed at taking away attention and awareness from the multitude of external objects. The Yogi’s attention is “drawn within,” or being “internalized,” (for instance, by concentration on one’s breath) trying to avoid that the impressions of the five senses (touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell) come into conscious awareness.

In relation to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Pratyahara is seen as “the bridge” between the external aspects of Yoga (Yama, Niyama, Asana, and Pranayama) and its internal aspects (Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi).

Usually, Pratyahara will be done sitting, typically in a seated Yoga Asana suited for meditation, in a calm and isolated location which has as little as possible sensory distraction. This location could be a quiet room, a cave, a temple, a forest, a mountain top, or whatever place that is tranquil and devoid of much disturbance.

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