Pratyāhāra is the inward turn that we consciously take in order to access stillness. We withdraw our senses, and bring focus to what is within ourselves.
As we withdraw to be with ourselves, we slide into a space of knowing and being.
This act is not a denial of life. Instead it is the action of a practitioner who consciously moves THROUGH life and into an awakened space of stillness.
Withdrawal is actually a conscious control of and assembly of the senses. It is a knowing and mastering of our senses. The job of our senses is to take our attention outside of ourselves. That’s how we learn and gain information about our environment. As we practice pratyāhāra, we reach for awareness of where our attention is being pulled. Once we know where our attention is being pulled, we can exert influence over this flow and shift it inwards. Thus, Pratyāhāra is awareness and knowing followed by management and control.
When I practice Pratyāhāra, I am nourished, because a still mind is a relaxed mind. With practice, I feel nourished and vital.
One of the many ways that yoga is more than simple "stretching" is that there is this active principal when we move in āsana. We are mindful and intentional about what we are doing with our body, minds and energy as we practice.
Next time you are holding any pose, try to withdraw your senses, if possible, and go within yourself for a deeper experience of connection over simple stretching.