Astanga Yoga – Patanjali Yoga Sutras

Saint Patanjali in his book “Yoga Sutras” defined Eight Realms of Yoga (Astanga Yoga)

  1. Yama(ethical disciplines): These commandments are the rules of morality of society. If not followed bring chaos, violence etc and disturb relations with others, bringing stress and other associated issues.
  2. Niyama(individual discipline): Niyama are the rules of conduct that apply to individual discipline. GOD designed nature to follow Niyams, e.g Earth revolution around Sun, our Heart Beat etc. Think if any of the above 2 Niyam not followed.In Yoga we do conscious efforts to follow Niyam, we practice them and slowly master them so that they become part of our daily routing.With Ushapaan and Daily Yoga Practice we started few Niyam
  3. Asana(Posture): The third limb of Yoga is asana or postures. Asana brings steadiness, health and lightness of limb. A steady and pleasant posture produces mental equilibrium and prevents fickleness of mind. Asana’s are preparatory of 4th limb of Yoga, Pranayam.While practicing Asana’s we will slowly learn how Saints not only studied Human Body but also learnt from different living beings like trees, birds and animals.Slowly we will explore and experience why Yoga is called so scientific. Name of the asanas are significant and illustrate the principle of evolution. We should remember and understand meaning of Asana’s.One example to illustrate how important to understand name of asana, lets take one example of Paschimottanasana.
    Yoga divides body into four directions as:Poorvi or Eastern: Eastern aspect is the front of the body from face down to the toes.

    Paschima or West: It implies the back of the whole body from the head to the heels.

    Uttar or North: It implies crown or head of the body.

    Dakshina or South: It is normally used to refer heels in the Yoga

    Uttana means intense. Paschimottanasana intensely stretches back of the whole body. Knowing this meaning will helps to understand which part of the body should be stretched if asana is practiced properly.

  4. Pranayama: Prana means breath, respiration, life vitality, wind, energy or strength. Ayama means length, expansion, stretching or restraints. Pranayama thus connotes extension of breath and its control.
    Pranayama thus connotes extension of breath and its control. This control is over all the functions pf breathing:
    – Puraka: inhalation or inspiration
    – Rechaka: exhalation or expiration
    – Kumbhaka: retention or holding the breathPranayama is thus the science of breath. It is the hub round which the wheel of life revolves.Yoga defines breathing is the second best source of energy (Food, Sleep, Breathe, Mental Peace)Yoga also defines Breathe or Prana Vayu as second body which is connect between Physical Body and Mental body and Soul.A word of caution: Hatha Yoga Pradipika(chapter II, verse 16) warns “prana should be brought under control very slowly in gradation measured according to one’s capacity and physical limitations, otherwise it will kill the practitioner”

    Pranayama prepares practitioner for the next stage Pratyahara.

  5. Pratyahara: If there is rhythmic control of breath, the senses instead of running after external objects of desire turn inwards and the man is free from their tyranny. This is the fifth stage of Yoga, namely pratyahara, where the senses are brought under control.
  6. Dharana: When the body has been tempered by asanas, when the mind has been refined by the fire of pranayama and when the senses have been brought under control by pratyahara, the sadhaka(practitioner) reaches the sixth stage called dharana. Here he is concentrated wholly on a single point or on a task in which he is completely engrossed. The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption.
    A though which is well guarded by a controlled mind brings happiness.

    Without Ekagra/concentration one can learn nothing.

                        Food for thought: How can we consciously work to increase concentration?

  7. Dhyana: When the flow of concentration(dharana) is uninterrupted, the state that arises is Dhyana.
    His body, breath, senses, mind, reason and ego are all integrated in the object of contemplation – The Universal Spirit.
    The sign of progress on the path of Yoga are health, a sense of physical lightness, steadiness, clearness of countenance and a beautiful voice, sweetness of odor of the body and freedom from carving. He has a balanced, serene and a tranquil mind.
  8. Samadhi: Samadhi is the end of the sadhaka’s quest. At the peak of his meditation, he passes into the state of samadhi, where his body and senses are at rest as if he is asleep, his faculties of mind and reason are alert as if he is awake, yet he has gone beyond consciousness. The person in the state of samadhi is fully conscious and alert.