PRATYAHARA is the fifth of the Eight Limbs. In as much as we have climbed the ladder from training our behaviour towards others, from observing our behaviour towards ourselves, to maintaining a healthy body through asana work, to balancing and regulating our energies through working with Pranayama then, and only then, are we ready to move to Pratyahara, sense-withdrawal.This is about gently withdrawing from the external everyday world. We practise this in relaxation.
There are many wonderful relaxation techniques. One is Marmanasthanam Kriya, which is the relaxation of the 22 main body parts. Another favourite of mine is Surya Kriya. Here you visualise your own personal sun hovering three foot above your solar plexus (the place of the sun.) On the in-breath, you draw down the warmth and the energy of the sun into your body, on the out-breath, your radiate that warmth and energy through every part of your being. Do this for twenty minutes and you are totally relaxed, on all levels, unaware of external sounds, smells or sensations.
All good yoga teachers love ‘guarding’ their students in their long relaxation. It is a very special time of peace and healing.