What is Yoga? Yoga is a timeless pragmatic science that has evolved over thousands of years. It deals with the physical, moral, mental and spiritual wellbeing of man as a whole. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention upon, to use and apply. Yoga is one of six orthodox systems of Indian Philosophy. Patanjali outlines eight (asta) stages (anga) of yoga. They are:
1. Yama – ethical disciplines or universal moral commandments
1. ahimsa – non violence
2. staya – truth
3. asteya – non stealing
4. brahmacarya – continence/control
5. aparigraha – non greed
2. Niyama – self purification by discipline
1. sauca – purity
2. santosa – contentment
3. tapas – austerity/discipline
4. svadhyaya – study of the self
5. Isvara pranidhana – devotion
3. Asana – poses which bring steadiness, health and lightness of limb
4. Pranayama – rhythmic control of the breath
5. Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses from external objects
6. Dharana – concentration
7. Dhyana – meditation
8. Samadhi – a state of super consciousness brought about by profound meditation
Yama and niyama control the yogi’s emotions and serve to maintain harmony. Asana practice keeps the body healthy and strong and in harmony with nature. Pranayama teaches the regulation of breath and thereby control of the mind. These first four stages form the outward quest.
Pratyahara is considered a transitional state which takes the yogi inward. When the body has been tempered by asana, when the mind has been refined by the fire of pranayama and when the senses have been brought under control by pratyahara, the yogi reaches the sixth stage dharana. The mind is stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption. When the flow of concentration, dharana, is uninterrupted the state that arises is dhyana, meditation.
Samadhi is the end of the yogi’s quest. At the peak of meditation the state of samadhi is entered where body and senses are at rest but the faculties of the mind and intelligence are alert as if awake. A person in the samadhi state is fully conscious and alert.