Lesson 9 - The Eight Fold Path
Up till now you were introduced with the concepts of Yoga
such as modifications in mind, Law of Karma, what is God and obstacles in Yoga.
This lesson onwards you will be learning the practical aspects of Yoga. You will
understand how the eight fold path of Yoga takes you to self-realization.
There are many flavors of Yoga such as Raja Yoga, Hatha
Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. However, many of them have accepted an eight
fold approach (often called as Ashtanga Yoga) to Yoga. The sage Patanjali
in his Yoga Sutras has given a clear outline of this eight fold path. The
ultimate goal of Yoga is Samadhi. However, Samadhi can not be attained from day
one. It takes years (or even lives!) to prepare your mind body
equipment for the final destination. This preparation consists
of progressive steps. Using the ladder of these steps you reach the final
destination. The eight fold path as outlined by many ancient Yogic texts is as
Yama refers to social disciplines. It includes five
Niyama on the other hand refers to self disciplines and
includes the following:
It is worth to note that ancient Yogis put social
disciplines before self-disciplines indicating importance of ethical social
Together Yama and Niyama make you disciplined, controlled
and ready to take on any tough conditions in life. They form the solid
foundation for your spiritual progress. Without observance of Yama and Niyama
self-realization will always be a far distant goal.
After Yama and Niyama comes Asana. Asana means body
posture. Asanas are so commonly known that many people wrongly equate Yoga with
Asanas. Though important they are just one of the limbs of Ashtanga
Yoga. Asanas make your body disease free and strong. They make your body
suitable to sit for meditation for longer time.
Pranayama refers to controlling and regulating prana, the
vital life force. The physical aspect of pranayama consists of a series of
breathing exercises. Remember that prana is not the same as breath. Breath is
just a gross means to control prana which is subtle in nature.
Pratyahara refers to restraining the sense organs from
enjoying their respective senses. Pratyahara is the first step in the overall
process of meditation. Normally our sense organs are constantly busy collecting
sense stimuli from the external world. With the help of pratyahara you turn them
inwards by stopping their extrovert nature.
Once you have some control on the sense organs you can
start Dharana or concentration. Your object of dharana can be external or
internal. In dharana though you are concentrating on a particular object your
mind has tendency to wander away often. You need to bring it back again and
The practice of dharana evolves into Dhyana. Dhyana means
meditation. Unlike dharana, dhyana is uninterrupted. Your mind is fixed firmly
on the object of meditation. There is no distraction.
Finally, dhyana evolves into Samadhi, the ultimate goal.
In samadhi you become one with the object of meditation. You loose your separate
identity. It is then that your true nature is revealed to you.
As you can see ancient Yogis studied the science of
meditation in depth. They devised a methodic approach to reach the final
destination. In the lessons to come you will learn each of the step in
May the Peace be with you.