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 follows:

  • Yama
  • Niyama
  • Asana
  • Pranayama
  • Pratyahara
  • Dharana
  • Dhyana
  • Samadhi

Yama refers to social disciplines. It includes five disciplines namely,

  • Satya or truthfullness
  • Ahimsa or non-violance
  • Asteya or non-stealing
  • Aparigraha or non-avariciousness
  • Bramhacharya or celibacy

Niyama on the other hand refers to self disciplines and includes the following:

  • Shaucha or cleanliness
  • Santosha or contentment
  • Tapas or austerities
  • Svadhya or self-study
  • Ishwarapranidhana or surrender to God

It is worth to note that ancient Yogis put social disciplines before self-disciplines indicating importance of ethical social behavior.

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 again.

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 detail.

May the Peace be with you.


Bipin Joshi is an independent software consultant and trainer by profession specializing in Microsoft web development technologies. Having embraced the Yoga way of life he is also a yoga mentor, meditation teacher, and spiritual guide to his students. He is a prolific author and writes regularly about software development and yoga on his websites. He is programming, meditating, writing, and teaching for over 27 years. To read more about him go here. More details about his Kriya and Meditation online course are available here.

Posted On : 12 January 2007

Tags : Yoga Patanjali Raja Yoga Ashtanga Yoga Meditation Courses