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Yoga-Sutra

The second Chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras - contains instructions for our Practice - Sadhana Pada.

Sadhana-Pada

Sentence 29

yama niyama-asana pranayama pratyahara dharana dhyana samadhayo-'shtavangani ||29||

यम नियमाअसन प्राणायाम प्रत्याहार धारणा ध्यान समाधयोऽष्टावङ्गानि ॥२९॥

yama niyama-āsana prāṇāyāma pratyāhāra dhāraṇā dhyāna samādhayo-'ṣṭāvaṅgāni ॥29॥

The limbs of the eight-fold path are as follows: respect for others (yama) and yourself (niyama); harmony with your body (asana), your energy (pranayama), your thoughts (dharana), and your emotions (pratyahara); contemplation (dhyana); ecstasy (samadhi). ||29||


yama = (iic.) respect for others; ethical and moral codes of conduct; codes of conduct
niyama = respect for yourself; code of conduct vis-à-vis yourself
āsana = body posture; seat; harmony with your body
prāṇāyāma = breath control; harmony with vital energy
pratyāhāra = (iic.) withdrawal of the senses; harmony with emotions
dhāraṇā = (nom. pl. m./acc. pl. f./nom. pl. f.) concentration; harmony with thoughts
dhyāna = (iic.) contemplation; meditation
samādhayaḥ = (nom. pl. m. from samādhaya) ecstasy; samadhi; goal of yoga; enlightenment; transcendent state
aṣṭa = respect
aṅgāni = (acc. pl. n./nom. pl. n. from aṅga) limbs

I will now discuss the individual stages along the eight-fold path.

Preparatory stages

The preparatory stages along the path to yoga – yama and niyama – for the basis for the actual practice of yoga.

Practice of yoga

The practice of aṣṭāṅga-yoga itself comprises āsana, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra and dhāraṇā, i.e. from the physical to the ethereal, as follows: āsnana: harmony with the physical body; prāṇāyāma: harmony with the energetic body; pratyāhāra: emotional harmony; dhāraṇā: harmony of thought.

Stages in meditation

However, dhāraṇā is also the connecting link to the inner stages of aṣṭāṅga-yoga. The three stages of meditation (samyama) are dhāraṇā, ~dhyāna and samādhi, or concentration, contemplation and absolute knowledge.

Conclusions:

Although the physical practice of the āsana-vinyāsa system forms the basis for aṣṭāṅga yoga, this system should not be confused with āsana, for the practice of āsana-vinyāsa begins with the physical sphere and evolves organically to the mental sphere via energy and the emotions in such a way that a new person emerges. The consequent changes are not confined to the excercises you do on a yoga mat, for they alter the shape of your entire life.

The following sentences of the yoga sutra describe the various stages and practice stages of ashtanga yoga. The meditation stage is described in the third section.