Page 1 of 4Yoga - An Explanation (Source: International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres; www.sivananda.org)
Yoga Means Union
Although many people think this term refers to union between body and mind or body, mind and spirit, the traditional acceptance is union between the Jivatman and Paramatman that is between one's individual consciousness and the Universal Consciousness.
Therefore Yoga refers to a certain state of consciousness as well as to methods that help one reach that goal or state of union with the divine.
The 8 limb System of Yoga (Raja Yoga) prescribed by Sage Patanjali
Compiled by the Sage Patanjali Maharishi in the Yoga Sutras, the Eight Limbs are a progressive series of steps or disciplines which purify the body and mind, ultimately leading the yogi to enlightenment. These 8 limbs are:
Yamas - The Yamas or restraints (Don'ts) are divided into five moral injunctions, aimed at destroying the lower nature. They should all be practiced and developed by the letter but also more importantly in the spirit. They should all be practiced in word, thought and deed.
• Ahimsa or non-violence
• Satyam or truthfulness
• Brahmacharya or moderation in all things (control of all senses). Also refers to celibacy
• Asteya or non-stealing
• Aparigraha or non-covetousness
Niyamas - The Niyamas or observances (Do's) are also divided into five and complete the ethical precepts started with the Yama.. These qualities are:
• Saucha or purity - this internal and external cleanliness.
• Santosha or contentment
• Tapas or austerity
• Swadhyaya or study of the sacred texts
• Ishwara Pranidhana which is constantly living with an awareness of the divine Presence (surrender to God's Will)
Asanas - Postures
Pranayama - regulation or control of the breath. Asanas and Pranayama form the sub-division of Raja Yoga known as Hatha-Yoga
Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses in order to still the mind.
Dharana - Concentration. The last 3 steps constitute the internal practice of Raja Yoga. When Dharana is achieved, it leads to the next step:
Dhyana - meditation is that state of pure thought and absorption in the object of meditation. There is still duality in Dhyana. When mastered Dhyana leads to the last step:
Samadhi - the super conscious state. In Samadhi non-duality or oneness is experienced. This is the deepest and highest state of consciousness where body and mind have been transcended and the Yogi is one with the Self or God.