sound as awakening

discovering the magic of pratyahara

Each day as part of our yoga and meditation practices, we celebrate our universality when we chant OM – the hymn of the universe. Resonating this timeless vibration through our body-mind reinforces our yoga – our oneness – with the universe. When we begin or end our daily practice by chanting OM, we establish a link between our souls and the collective consciousness of the universe.

The recognized founder of yogic philosophy is the legendary sage Maharishi Patanjali. In his classic work, “The Yoga Sutras,” Patanjali elaborated the eight branches or “limbs” of yoga to help shift our internal reference point from a constricted state to an expanded consciousness. One in particular brings us more in touch with the senses – let’s take a look at the 5th Branch of Yoga – Pratyahara. 

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Patanjali encourages us to take time withdrawing our senses from the world to hear our inner voice more clearly. Pratyahara is the process of directing the senses inward to become aware of the subtle elements of sound, touch, sight, taste and smell; it also means tuning in to your subtle sensory experiences known in yoga as tanmantras.  

You can also practice at home and awaken the tanmantras by consciously activating subtle sensory impressions on the screen of your awareness. Ask a friend to read these descriptions to you while your eyes are closed:


The ringing of a church bell
The morning songs of birds
The roar of an ocean wave crashing
against the shore

Pratyahara is the process of temporarily withdrawing the senses from the outer world in order to recognize the sensations of your inner world. When the senses are withdrawn, you are able to tune into subtler sounds and smells, making them more vibrant. In practice, Pratyahara means paying attention to the sensory impulses you encounter throughout the day, limiting to the extent possible those that are toxic and maximizing those that are nourishing to your body, mind and soul

Choose sounds that inspire you. Pratyahara defines the space where you are less likely to be distracted by distressing sensations in your environment, such as loud music, blaring television shows and aggravating arguments. Making conscious choices about the sounds in your environment can bring quieter realms to your consciousness. Take time on a daily basis to close your eyes and delve inward; expand your senses and the world becomes more vibrant.