In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is a two-thousand-year-old collection of oral teachings on yogic philosophy, there are one hundred and ninety-five statements that are a kind of philosophical guide to meet the challenges of being human.
The Yoga Sutras provide an eight-part path called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs.” These eight steps are basic guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life.
They are a recipe for moral and ethical conduct. They direct attention to health and help us recognize the spiritual aspects of our nature.
The first four steps or stages focus on refining our personalities, gaining mastery over our bodies, and developing an energetic awareness of ourselves, all of which prepares us for the second half of the journey, which deals with the senses, the mind, and the achievement. A higher state of consciousness.
The first step deals with moral or ethical standards and a sense of integrity, focusing on our behavior and how we behave in our interpersonal life. These are literally the controls or not of life.
They include areas in which we must learn to control the tendencies that, if allowed the expression, would end up causing disharmony and pain. They are the same moral virtues found in all the great religious traditions of the world. The five yamas are:
Nonviolence: Refrain from harming or degrading any living being, including yourself, by action, word, or thought.
Not liar: Control any tendency to say something that is not truthful, including not being honest with yourself.
Do not steal: Reduce the tendency to take anything that does not belong to you, which includes not only material objects but also things like praise or position.
No Sensuality: Learn the art of self-control; control the tremendous energy spent searching and thinking about sensual pleasure and refraining from inappropriate sexual behaviors.
Without greed: Learn not to cling to or desire “things”; learn to discriminate between “needs” and “wants”.
Niyama, the second step, square measure individual strategies that got to do with self-discipline, self-development and religious observations. These square measure the non-controls or dose path. The 5 niyamas are:
Purity: Strive for purity or purity of body, mind and surroundings.
Satisfaction: Seek satisfaction and acceptance with what you have got and with things as they’re straight away. however additionally rummage around for ways in which to boost things within the future.
Self-control: Learn to own management over your actions and to own the strength in determination to try and do what you decide; to interchange negative habits with positive ones.
Self Study: This requires introspection; study our actions, words and thoughts to work out if we have a tendency to square measure behaving during a harmonious and positive thanks to win the happiness and satisfaction we try for.
Devotion: Devotion is that the turning of the natural love of the guts towards the divine instead of towards the objects of the globe.
Aasana, the postures practiced in yoga, is that the third step. in step with the yogistic read, the body may be a temple of the spirit, whose care is a very important step in our religious growth.
By active posture, we have a tendency to develop the habit of discipline and therefore the ability to concentrate, each of that square measure necessary for meditation.
Generally translated as breath control, this fourth step consists of techniques designed to master the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions.
The literal translation of pranayama is “life force”. You can practice pranayama as an separate technique (just sit down and do a series of breathing exercises) or integrate it into your daily hatha yoga routine.
Pratyahara, the 5th step, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make a conscious effort to move our consciousness away from the external world and external stimuli. We direct our attention internally.
The practice of pratyahara gives us the opportunity to step back and look at ourselves. This can happen during breathing exercises, during meditation, during the practice of yoga postures or during any activity that requires concentration.
Detachment is a great pain management technique and a great way to deal with uncomfortable symptoms or chronic conditions.
The practice of pratyahara creates the stage for dharana or concentration. Having freed ourselves from external distractions, we can now deal with the distractions of the mind itself.
In the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, we learn to slow down the thought process by concentrating on a single mental object.
The goal is to realize nothing more than the object you are concentrating on, be it a candle flame, a flower, a repeating mantra, a specific energy center in the body, or an image of a deity.
The purpose is to train the mind to remove all the additional and unnecessary garbage that floats around, to learn to gently push away superfluous thinking. Long periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation.
Dhyana Meditation or Contemplation:
Meditation occurs when you have actually linked yourself to the object of your concentration so that nothing else exists. It is a sharp and sharp consciousness, not nothing. Your mind is completely focused and calm, but awake and aware of the truth.
There are many methods to bring you to this state, but the goal is unity with the object of your meditation and, subsequently, unity with the entire universe. It is quite a difficult task to reach this state of stillness, but it is not impossible.
This state is a goal to keep fighting for and, even if it is never achieved, there is a benefit at every stage of progress.
Patanjali describes this eighth and final step of ashtanga as a state of ecstasy. All the ways of yoga lead to this stage. This stage is one which most of us are unlikely to attain in this lifetime.
At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the self altogether. When in this state, you understand not only that you and the object of your meditation are one, but that you are one with universe.
The meditator comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine, an interconnectedness with all living things. What Patanjali has described as the completion of the yogic path is what, deep down, all human beings aspire to: joy, fulfillment, freedom and peace.