PATANJALI'S 8 LIMBS OF YOGA
THE YOGA SUTRAS
YOGIC OBSERVANCES AND PRACTICES
In Patanjali's work, "The Yoga Sutras" the path to cultivate inner & outer, physical & divine ascendance is called Ashtanga or "The Eight Limbs of Yoga". These steps are guidelines to live a moral life, to
act with ethical conduct and self-discipline. They direct attention toward
one's health and to cultivate the spiritual aspects of our nature.
The Yamas deal
with one's ethical standards and sense of integrity and how we conduct ourselves in life. Yamas are universal practices that provide guidance to our behavior externally and with others.
nonviolence, do no harm
restraint from falsehood or distortion of reality in one's expressions &actions
nonstealing, not taking what is not earned
right use of sexual energy
Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness
The Niyamas encourage
inner practices of self-discipline and spiritual observances.
study of the sacred scriptures and of one's self
pranidhana: surrender to Higher Power
physical postures are those movements, we in the west, associate with
the practice of Yoga. Yet the practice of asanas are far greater than just exercise
as they develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both necessary for meditation.
consists of techniques to gain mastery over the respiratory process while
recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind and the emotions. The translation
of pranayama is "life force extension," expanding the value of its
practice to cultivation of your Life Energy.
four stages of Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga refine: how we relate to ourselves and the world around us, how to cultivate our breath and bodies - all in preparation for the second half of our journey which deals with the senses, mind and attaining a higher state of
withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the
conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside
stimuli. Keenly aware of, yet cultivating a detachment from, our senses, we
direct our attention internally. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an
opportunity to step back and objectively observe our cravings and physical cues.
relieved ourselves of outside distractions, we can now deal with the
distractions of the mind itself. In this practice of concentration (which
precedes meditation) we learn how to slow down the thinking process by
concentrating on a single mental object: a specific energetic center in the
body, an image of a deity, or the silent repetition of a sound. In the previous
stages of posture, breath control, and withdrawal of the senses prepare us for
the practice of Dharana where we focus our attention on a single point.
Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation.
contemplation, is the uninterrupted flow of
concentration. Where dharana practices one-pointed attention, dhyana is ultimately
a state of being keenly aware without focus. At this stage, the mind has been
quieted, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all.
The state of ecstasy when the meditator merges with the point of focus and transcends the limited Self realizing a profound connection to the
Divine, and interconnectedness with all living things. With this comes a peace that passes mental formations - an experience of bliss and being one with God or the Universe.