In his ‘Yoga Sutras,’ Patanjali divided the yoga practice into eight limbs, and it is believed that practicing all is a path to enlightenment. The eight limbs of yoga are guides for living a meaningful and fulfilled life. They are disciplines that lead to enlightenment.
The complexity of yoga requires commitment in the overall way of life. Patanjali classified yoga into eight limbs, which are:
Yamas – moral and ethical rules, our relationship to this world
There are five Yamas: Ahimsa – non-violence, Satya – honesty, Asteya – non – stealing, Brahmacharya – a clean lifestyle, and Aparigraha – non – attachment.
Niyamas - ethical rules of behavior towards oneself, our relationship to ourselves
There are five Niyamas: Saucha – purity, Santosha – contentment, Tapas – discipline, Svadhyaya - self-analysis, Isvara Pranidhana - surrendering to a higher power.
Asanas - yogic postures
Asanas are all about the discipline of the body, and they are highly beneficial postures. They protect against disease and stimulate vital energy. The body is a temple of the soul, and caring for it is a significant stage of spiritual growth. Proper posture is a physical introduction to meditation.
Pranayama - breath control
Breathing is a process that you can do consciously and unconsciously. In pranayama, you need to control your breathing, consciously. This way you will relax your body and mind and prepare for asana and meditation. Pranayama can be practiced as a separate technique or included in a regular yoga program.
Pratyahara – sense control
Pratyahara means removing the attention of the senses from external events, withdrawal of the senses. At this stage, we try to direct the consciousness inside and keep an internal focus, without being distracted by the impermanent delusions of the material world. All external stimuli are consciously removed so that the inner awareness is increased. This helps to keep focus and concentration. Pratyahara is considered to be the connection between the inner and outer aspects of yoga.
Dharana – concentration
By concentrating on a mental object, we are slowing down the thinking process. This mental object can be the energy center in the body, the image of the deity, a sound. We are dealing with our minds and with what distracts us inside.
In Pratyahara, we observe, and in Dharana, we focus our attention on one point.
Dhyana - meditation
Dhyana is a state of consciousness. At this stage, the mind is already calm, and it does not lead to thoughts. The goal of Dhyana is to stop the fluctuations of the mind. To achieve this condition, you need strength and endurance.
Samadhi – state of bliss
In Samadhi, one becomes aware of the deep connection with the divine, the relationship with all living beings. In this state, the fluctuations are completely stopping, and consciousness unites with the object of meditation. Samadhi is a state in which we are united with our higher consciousness, with the Universe.
Only when we introduce all of these steps and moral values into our practice, we can say that we practice and live yoga. What Patanjali described as an eight-step path is actually what each of us strives for - peace. The final stage of yoga is enlightenment. The path to freedom is not easy nor simple, but with the help of yogic discipline and devotion, we can achieve this goal.