Yoga Sutras on Pratyahara


The Sutras on Pratyahara (The Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali 54)

When separated from their corresponding objects, the organs follow, as it were the nature of the mind, that is called Pratyahara (restraining of the organs)


  1. Due to the lack of contact with their corresponding objects, the senses, as it were, imitate the nature of the mind. To this I mean if the mind has suspended its functions, the senses also cease their functions, rendering unnecessary the application of other means for the control of the senses. Just as the bees follow the course of the Queen bee and rest when the latter rests, so when the mind stops, the senses also stop their activities

This is Pratyahara

Yoga Sutras on Pratyahara
  1. To whatever direction the mind is wilfully turned, the senses follow it      
  2. When the mind is fixed on internal region, the senses no longer perceive external objects
  3. Similarly, when the mind is fixed on an external object only and the senses refrain from all other activities related to other objects

The principle methods for practicing Pratyahara are:

  1. Indifference to external objects
  2. Living in the world of thought

Pratyahara cannot be practiced unless the habit of intently noticing objects with the eye and other senses is given up.

Pratyahara in the form of suspension of the activities of the senses is helpful to the Yogi for arresting the mind.  

Pratyahara is self-regulated, when the Yogi does not want to know a thing, his power of perception stops immediately.

Pranayama for a long time is helpful.

Pratyahara is beneficial when practiced with Yamas and Niyamas, otherwise the type of Pratyahara bought about on about on a person (example hypnotism) by somebody with wicked motive may cause harm

The Sutras on Pratyahara (The Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali 55)

Some say that A-vyasana or indifference to objects like sights and sounds etc, is control of the senses. The word vyasana in this connection, means attachment or fondness, in other words, that which moves people away from righteousness.


Yoga defines the mind as Manas, which stores the information collected through the senses, eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin. This is collectively titled Jnanendriyas. The organs of action, feet, hands, mouth and organs of elimination are called Karmendriyas, put the thoughts into action.

Collectively these are called the Indriyas. Practicing Pratyahara is acting with indifference to what the senses are perceiving This may be a smell or sound which will invoke a distant memory with all sorts of embedded emotional attachments. This then triggers all the same responses as if we were in that moment all over again.

Yoga tells us our subconscious mind is constantly reaching out through the senses seeking attachment, which results in patterns repeating themselves over and over. Pratyahara is a way of breaking attachments through watching the information the senses collect, while acting with indifference.

The practice of Pratyahara leads to Dharana or holding the mind towards a single point. Without first practicing Pratyahara the mind will be drawn constantly from one thought to the next.

Withholding the breath is an important precursor for Pratyahara. The mind or Manas is activated by Prana, or the breath. When practicing breath retention, the activity in the mind (Chitta) falls away, and the mind becomes still.


Yoga tells us there is no good or bad, right or wrong, there just is, and it is important to remember this when practicing Pratyahara. Thoughts that arise during meditation may be ones that make us feel bad or make us feel very good. Its easy to want to avoid bad thoughts, and revel in the ones that make us feel good. Both are a trap that will bind us to the past.

Applying the Yamas and Niyamas will help guide us through these rocky waters. The Yamas and Niyamas are moral and ethical guidelines which cover concepts of non-harm to others and us. The Yamas and Niyamas tell us that continuing to feel bad about a past action, may cause self-harm, binding us to a pattern of action. To break free would be letting go of guilt and changing our action.

Pratyahara is the original mindfulness but takes the concept much further, just being mindful of actions will not change anything. The proof is easy to equate, if your life is the same with mindfulness it doesn’t work. Pratyahara will lead to fundamental change in your life.

Martin Thompson

pocket yoga teacher A1 for print