The science of yoga dates back 5000 years B.C. and has been described in vedas and tantras. Patanjali, also called the 'Father of Yoga' was a great sage who codified the philosophies of yoga in his book. He called it the Yogasutras and described eight principles. According to him, each of these eight steps are necessary to incorporate the benefits of yoga into our lives. Its not just about some stances or breathing exercises, its a whole new code of conduct. Read on to find out more.
Statue of Patanjali, courtesy Alokprasad, wikimedia commons
1. yama These are the don'ts. Man is a social animal and these practices are required to be a part of society:
Nonviolence: think or cause no harm to any living thing
Truthfulness: do not lie or cheat
Non-stealing: this is in relation to material objects.
Continence: this refers to avoiding meaningless sexual encounters.
Non-possessiveness: Again in relation to material things. Keep your needs minimum and simple
2. niyama These are the dos. These aim towards disciplining self:
Purity: by practicing the above don'ts, you can achieve mental purity. Cleanliness of the body and your surroundings can bring physical purity.
Contentment: be happy with who you are and what you have
Endurance: develop self-discipline. Control the mind and body
Devotion to God or whatever you believe drives the universe.
3. Asanas A stable posture helps attain mental equilibrium. Though these yoga poses are nowadays practiced for staying fit, their main aim was to aid the sages to meditate for a long time without physical hindrances.
4. pranayama It is the control of breath. The inhalation, retention and exhalation of breath in a rhythmic manner purifies the mind, and thus helps in concentration and meditation.
5. pratyahara It is the withdrawal of senses. When you are concentrating such that you are directing all the energies inward, you can focus very well.
6. dharana Concentration of mind on one object, for example, a candle. Slowly, this activity becomes effortless.
7. dhyana This is uninterrupted meditation without an object. It is a heightened level of awareness where you become one with the Universe. Then you cannot feel the distractions of daily life.
Oneness with Universe, courtesy Cornelia Copp, wikimedia commons
8. samadhi This is the ultimate goal of life, absolute bliss. Oneness with God or universe.
These are the Yogasutras, the first five for control of the mind and body, and the last three for spiritual development. If practiced with discipline and in the correct order, they will eventually lead to ultimate enlightenment.