All or most of Yoga philosophy is based on Patanjali’sYoga Sutras. Very little is known about this ancient Indian sage, who lived around BC1 and AD1. The text attributed to him is composed of 196 sutras or threads — each an idea or a thought that successively links and builds upon the other.
The Yoga Sutras contain the master plan that governs Ashtanga Yoga (Asta = eight; and anga = limb). Ashtanga Yoga provides an 8-limbed path towards the ultimate goal of every Yogi, which is Samadhi or one-ness with the divine energy or universal energy.
Let’s briefly take a look at the 8 limbs of Yoga.
1. Yama: Self-restraint; rules, observances and principles that govern the way you behave with others and your surroundings. These are 5.
1. Ahimsa: Non-violence
2. Satya: Truthfulness
3. Asteya: Non-stealing
4. Brahmacharya: Restraining/moderating the senses
5. Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness
2. Niyama: These are the principles that govern your own life. They are also 5 in number
1. Saucha: Cleanliness
2. Santosha: Contentment
3. Tapas: Self-discipline
4. Svadyaya: Self-study
5. Ishwara Prani Dhana: Surrendering to the Almighty
3. Asana: The third limb comprises all the postures that tone the body and help the Yogi prepare his/her physical body so it can support him/her as they seat themselves for hours in meditation.
4. Pranayama: Here the Yogi learns to harness the breath — the life force. The Yogi learns breathing exercises that improve lung capacity followed by ancient Pranayama techniques.
5. Pratyahara: Now that the Yogi has completed the first 4 levels, he or she is considered ready to begin learning how to meditate. This is through a withdrawal of one’s senses from the external environment and turning to look inwards at our thoughts and ideas, our beliefs and views. These are what make us behave the way we do. By going inwards and observing our thoughts, we can let go of the negative, self-centered ideas and promote the positive.
6. Dharana: This is the stage when focused attention becomes effortless; one is now training the mind to meditate.
7. Dhyana: Here is when the Yogi finds himself/herself in a state of flow; he or she can now sit for extensive time to meditate.
8. Samadhi: Through continuous meditation, the Yogi begins to lose the sense of separation from the Supreme Consciousness, the Divine Source or the Divine Energy — whatever one would like to call the creator of creation.
The first four limbs of Ashtanga Yoga prepare the body for the next three, which, in turn leads you to the eighth — the final frontier!
For those interested in learning more about Yoga philosophy, Pratimoksha offers lectures — both at our studio and online. For more information call/Whatsapp 050-395-5613.
To listen to our founder Lalitha Viswanath’s short talks that introduce Yoga philosophy click on the links below.