Everything we do is a ‘response’. To be even more precise, I can say that everything we think, say or do is a ‘response’. When I think I want to teach yoga, it is a response to my question to myself about what I want to do. When I ask people to align and focus internally in their asana/pose, it is a response to a need to ensure that they do not get injured due to an incorrect posture. When I practice yoga, it is a response to my need to feel the peaceful connection that I have felt with myself during an earlier practice.
A question (in thought, word, deed) is a response, a response is a response, an observation is a response; e v e r y thing is a response. There is a question lingering in us, an anxiety – to think something, to say something, to do something. Truth is – once thought/told/done, there is no going back, we start a chain of events that pull us further into them. We live in desperation; seeking responses, making responses, suffering responses, till we reach a point when we are no more in our bodies to respond anymore. In all this melee, imagine if we could stop our thinking and reactionary process and simply be in observation – as though none of what was happening around us concerned us. This is precisely what Pratyahara teaches us to achieve. Patanjali describes Pratyahara as a withdrawal – a collapse of images, sounds, touch, smell, taste into nothingness. Pratyahara is an attempt to disconnect our need for response and connect with our ability for observation.
In daily life, we can use the concept of Pratyahara when we are in battle (arguments, anger, jealousy etc) and learn to simply accept and withdraw into silence. Lots of times, we believe that we need to be heard, we need to be seen – yet, the truth is one can only be heard in silence and seen in absence. Pratyahara through practicing silence, fasting etc can connect us with the truth that we do not matter in the scheme of things. We are a blip in nature’s vastness. Pratyahara can connect one with the vastness and start the process of removeing us from our self-defined constrained living.