Practicing Pratyahara for Sensory Overload

April 23, 2021

When it seems impossible to escape this world of constant information consumption, pratyahara shows us that it is indeed within our power to find stillness.

Pratyahara means “withdrawal of the senses.” It is the fifth of the eight limbs of yoga, and one of the most misunderstood. Pratyahara is considered the bridge between the external and internal limbs of yoga. It teaches us how to move between these two worlds.

Through practicing pratyahara, one draws one’s senses inward, withdrawing from external information.

Do you find yourself constantly scrolling through social media? Or checking your emails throughout the day? How much time do you spend consuming television?

Do you notice how much of your attention goes to your external world?

Our current reality makes sensory overload a part of daily life. It is why meditation is often so difficult—we are so used to doing and not simply being. Living under constant sensory input makes it a challenge to quiet the mind.

Thus, overstimulating the senses can lead to overwhelming the mind. We are always thinking, analyzing, and interpreting what we see in the world. We can forget how to be still. With pratyahara, we can withdraw and give our senses a rest. And instead tune into our inner selves.

Ways to Practice Pratyahara

There are many ways you can practice pratyahara. A very common practice includes paying attention to the breath without trying to change it—simply observing. You may find that all other senses tune out, until there is only the breath.

A few other ways of practicing pratyahara:

  • Closing the eyes during yoga practice or meditation
  • Keeping a soft gaze, not focusing on anything specific in your visual field
  • Focusing on body sensations (breath, body scans) rather than external sensations like noise

Practicing pratyahara does not mean we should completely withdraw at all times, but to notice where we place most of our energy. If our attention is always guided by external factors, we can’t stop and focus what is happening within.

Pratyahara is a challenging concept. But remember that your yoga practice is just that—a practice. It takes time to develop the skill of withdrawing in a world constantly vying for your attention.

Mila Meldosian
By Mila Meldosian; All Rights Reserved @2021

Mila MeldosianBy Mila Meldosian; All Rights Reserved @2021

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