The fifth limb of Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is called pratyahara. In Sanskrit, prati means "against" or "withdraw", and ahara meaning "food" or referring to anything we take in from the outside. It is defined as “the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses.” Withdrawal of the senses allows the practitioner to connect with their inner world.
One who has practised Pratyahara can have good concentration and meditation. His mind is always peaceful. This demands patience and constant practice. One who has mastery over Pratyahara will never complain of Vikshepa or distraction of mind. There are a few practices which induce pratyahara. These practices are discussed hereunder:
Vipreeta Kranti Mudra – balances breath flow:
This mudra balances the breath flow through both nostrils. It is a method of transmuting energy from grosser to more subtle forms. It increases wakefulness and digestive fire. Process – lie flat on the back with legs straight & together, place the arms straight beside the body, palms up, breathe deeply & raise the legs keeping them together, let the legs move upward, press the arms against the ground, raise the buttocks off the ground and push the legs further upwards, bend the arms and place the hands at the hips, trunk is supported by the arms, raise the legs vertically up, relax the body, practice ujjayi pranayama, while inhaling try to feel the flow of prana moving from the manipura chakra to the vishuddhi chakra, imagine amrit is flowing up from manipura to vishuddhi, hold the breath for a few seconds, exhale and feel prana moving from vishuddhi through ajna & bindu to sahasrara, this is one round.
Chakra Anusandhana – Moving awareness on different psychic centres:
This kriya is done immediately after Vipreeta Kranti mudra. Take meditative position, close the eyes, relax the whole body, fix awareness at the mooladhara chakra, move the awareness in the ascending psychic passage (Arohan which starts from mooladhara to bindu in straight line through various chakras), as the awareness travels through the chakras, repeat the names of respective chakras, after reaching the bindu, the awareness to descend through awarohan passage (descending passage from bindu to mooladhara through sushumna piercing various chakras), repeat the names of respective chakras, after reaching the mooladhara one round completes.
Nada Sanchalana - Rotation of sound consciousness (Aum):
The Sanskrit word nada means ‘flow’ and sanchalana means ‘rotation’. It means rotation of sound consciousness i.e., flow of sound ‘Aum’. it removes blockage in the flow of prana. In the process, the awareness needs to be rotated in ascending psychic frontal passage (Aroham – from mooladhara to bindu) and in descending psychic passage (Awarohan – from bindu to mooladhara), repeating the name of each chakra and piercing of prana into each chakra should felt. One chant mantra ‘Aum’ explosively after reaching awareness at bindu. Humming sound of ‘m’ should travel from ajna to mooladhara. In nada sanchalana, ujjayi pranayama and unmani mudra are included.
Process - Sit in comfortable meditative asana, close the eyes, relax the whole body, exhale deeply, Stage – 1 - fix the awareness at the mooladhara chakra, ascend the awareness through aroham psychic passage, repeat the name of each chakra while passing through the respective chakra, descend the awareness immediately after reaching ‘bindu’, repeat the process till awareness reaches mooladhara, this is one round, do 9 rounds.
Stage – 2 – bend the head forward slightly, fix the awareness on mooladhara, hold the breath & repeat the word mooladhara 3 times with intensity, inhale up with ujjayi pranayama through aroham, as awareness moves from vishuddhi to bindu raise the head slowly, fix awareness on bindu & repeat the word bindu 3 times with intensity, exhale with an explosive Aum sound – Au with explosive sound & ‘m’ travel from Ajna to mooladhara, practice unmani mudra while descending, open the eyes, first round complete, do 13 rounds.
Pawan Sanchalana - Rotation of breath consciousness:
The Sanskrit word pawan means ‘breath’ and sanchalana means ‘rotation’. It means rotation of breath consciousness. After completing nada sanchalana, pawan sanchalana is done. In the process, the awareness needs to be rotated in ascending psychic frontal passage (Aroham – from mooladhara to bindu) and in descending psychic passage (Awarohan – from bindu to mooladhara), repeating the name of each chakra and piercing of prana into each chakra should felt. In pawan sanchalana, ujjayi pranayama, unmani mudra and khechari mudra are included.
Process - Sit in comfortable meditative asana, close the eyes, relax the whole body, exhale deeply, complete Nada sanchalana, open the eyes, keep holding tongue in khechari mudra, bend the head forward slightly, fix the awareness on mooladhara, hold the breath & mentally repeat the word mooladhara 3 times with intensity, mentally say ‘arohan’, inhale up with ujjayi pranayama through aroham, as awareness moves from vishuddhi to bindu raise the head slowly, fix awareness on bindu & mentally repeat the word bindu 3 times with intensity, then mentally say ‘awarohan’ and begin to descend through awarohan psychic passage, mentally repeat name of each chakra, practice unmani mudra, on reaching mooladhara, the eyes should be nearly or completely closed, at mooladhara the head bend forwards gently, open the eyes, one round complete, do 49 round.
Shabda Sanchalana – Rotation of Soham:
The Sanskrit word shabda means ‘word’; sanchalana means rotation or conduction. Word is the mantra ‘soham’, the song of breath. The mind resists the process of concentration and starts to wander. Soham (means ‘I am Shiva – pure consciousness’) is the word which goes on with breathing, so it reminds. Any mantra can be integrated with the breath to produce continuous remembrance, but Soham arises naturally.
Process - Sit in comfortable meditative asana, close the eyes, relax the whole body, exhale deeply, complete Nada sanchalana and Pawan Sanchalana; do khechari throughout the practice, exhale deeply, bend the head forward, beware of mooladhara chakra, mentally say ‘arohan’, inhale up with ujjayi pranayama through aroham and hear sound “So” and feel it piercing through each chakra, as awareness moves from vishuddhi to bindu raise the head slowly, fix awareness on bindu for few seconds, breathe out with ujjayi down the awarohan passage in the spine, start unmani mundra, hear the mantra Ham and feel it piercing the chakras in turn, no mental repetition of the chakras names…only awareness, Ham mantra to finish when awareness reaches mooladhara. Bend the head forward, open eyes againmaintain awareness of the mooladhara for a few seconds, end of one round, do 59 rounds, then proceed to mahamudra.
In Sanskrit word ‘maha’ means great and ‘mudra’ means psychic attitude. Maha mudra alongwith maha bheda mudra release lot of energy in the physical, pranic and psychic bodies. Maha mudra is a practice which purifies the entire network of nadis (psychic passage), balance Ida and Pingala and absorb nectar of bliss so that it pervades one’s whole being.
Process – the chin is pressed against the throat (without jalandhara, contracting the throat), left foot pressed against the perineum, right foot stretched in front and kept firmly on ground, two hands to hold the right foot, breath drawn in then slowly exhaled.
Sit in siddhasana, one heel firmly presses on the perineum, fold tongue in khechari mudra throughout practice, open eyes, exhale deeply, hold breath, bend head forward, be aware of the mooladhara chakra and apply pressure by the heel, repeat 3 times mooladhara, inhale in ujjayi pranayama, awareness ascend in frontal arohan passage through chakras, at bindu inhalation is terminated & repeat mentally 3 times bindu, practise moola bandha and shambhavi mudra while continuing to hold the breath and mentally repeat word (Shambhavi & khechari), rotate awareness 3 to 12 times between khechari, moolabandha & shambhavi, release shambhavi mudra, release moolabandha, become aware of bindu again, then exhale with ujjayi pranayama and awareness descend through various chakras, do unmani mudra, exhalation to terminate at mooladhara, head bend gently forward, open eyes, first round complete, repeat 12 rounds.
Sit in utthanpadasana with left leg folded and right leg straight, place both hands on the right knee, do as in alternative ‘b’.
Maha Bheda mudra (Great piercing psychic attitude) –
Both maha mudra and maha bheda mudras have profound influence on the pranic level. They influence three centres: mooladhara, manipura and ajna chakras. These two kriyas manipulate and harness the energies within the chakras for inducement of concentration of mind and meditation.
Process 1 – Sit in meditative posture with back upright, one heel firmly presses against mooladhara chakra, open the eyes, do khechari, exhale deeply, hold the breath, gently rest the chin against the chest, be aware of mooladhara chakra & repeat mooladhara 3 times, inhale with ujjayi pranayama & move the awareness in arohan passage through chakras (no mental repetition), slowly raise the head as awareness moves from vishuddhi to bindu, at bindu lean head slightly backward with retaining breath, mentally repeat bindu 3 times, then with ujjayi exhalation awareness slowly descend in awarohan through chakras, do unmani mudra while descending, on reaching mooladhara repeat 3 times mooladhara, do jalandhara bandha while continuing to retain the breath, do moolabandha, then do uddiyana bandha, then do nasikagra drishti, say mentally: nasikagra, uddiyana, mool and fix the awareness on nose tip, naval and mooladhara chakras respectively, end of first round, repeat.
Process – 2 – Sit in uthanpadasana (right leg stretched, left leg folded) – place the hands on the right knee, similar to process 1 (except khechari).
Manduki mudra (Frog attitude) –
The sitting pose for this mudra is bhadrasana which resembles the sitting pose of frog. This mudra is beneficial in balancing the Ida and Pingala nadis and leads awakening of sushumna.
Process – sitting pose vajrasana, feet point opposite to the body or alternatively soles face upward, in case not possible place folded blanket so it presses mooladhara, separate knees as far as possible, place the hands-on knees, open eyes, do nasikagra drishti (gazing at the tip of nose), be aware of breathing through nostrils, inhalation merge at eyebrows centre & diverge while exhalation, try to smell fragrance of astral body (aroma similar to sandalwood), no fixed duration.
Tada kriya (Beating the kundalini) or Maha vedha –
This is a very simple yet powerful technique. It brings almost instant bliss. It is intended to induce pratyahara. It should be done after manduki mudra.
Process – sit in padmasana, if not possible legs stretched out in front, palms flat on the floor on both sides of buttocks, fingers pointing forward or fist on the floor with knuckles downwards, open the eyes, bend head back slightly, practice shambhavi mudra throughout the practice, inhale slowly & deeply through mouth with ujjayi pranayama, imagine breath going downwards in a tube to mooladhara and builds pressure at mooladhara, hold the breath, fix awareness at mooladhara, practise mild moolabandha, straighten arms and lift whole body off the ground, raise & drop the body (not too hard) by bending and straightening the arms, repeat it 3 to 11 times, release moolabandha, relax the whole body, exhale through nose with ujjayi pranayama, feel the prana diffuse in all directions of moolabandha.
The purpose of this article is just to highlight importance of kriya yoga and to guide “how to do Kriya”. Kriya yoga is a system that has always been taught directly by guru to disciple.
Reference: A systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya – by Swami Satyananda Saraswati