Pratyahara: The 5th Limb of Ashtanga Yoga
Pratyahara means sense withdrawl. It is the practice of withdrawing the senses from outside stimulation for the purpose of focusing on your internal development. As Sharon and David write, “Through pratyahara we can journey from outer fixation to inward revelation” (Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul). Essentially, the senses bring information into the mind, creating how we view the world. Our senses intake so much and fill our minds with so much outside 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.
Withdrawing the senses back to their source is the next step in subtly refining your self for experiencing the unity of yoga and the changelessness that is truth. It quiets the mind and retains prana 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 sense 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.