Patanjali is the authentic scientific writer about yoga ( Ashtanga Yoga ) in Hindu philosophy. Before him, many yogis wrote about yoga in their scriptures but their writings were not so clear that one can get the real guidance from that book. Patanjali has described the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga system which is definitely workable. He has given the emphasis in the continuous process of yoga formula. Patanjali said, in his book, that yoga is to stop the fluctuation of our mind. According to Patanjali, if we follow the path of eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga, we can get enlightened sooner or later.
Eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga are the complete systematic practice of yoga in our li and those eight limbs are:
Yama is the first step of eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. Yama is the discipline that we should have to apply in our life. Yama helps us to be sincere. This is the part of self-restrain which helps us to grow up in the field of our spiritual purpose. Patanjali put this at the first part because every successful strategy starts from the purity of our mind, purity of our behavior. Patanjali distributes this yama in five parts.
Nonviolence is not to harm any living beings by our behavior. If we apply this non-violence in our life, we have to be careful if our action creates some discomfort to the people, who is in the contact with us? We don’t have to harm to the people by our three ways:
I) By our action
II) By our thinking
III) By our words
2. Satya (Truthfulness)
We have to practice to speak the truth. We shouldn’t promise faulty things that we won’t fulfill by our action. What we speak, we should do and what we do, we should speak. Our life’s every action should show the truthfulness. Our every effort in the life should show the reflection of the truth.
3. Asteya (Not Stealing)
The meaning of asteya is not to steal. We even don’t have to bring the feeling of stealing in our mind, according to Patanjali. We don’t have to take anything of anyone without the permission of the owner.
4. Brahmacharya (Chastity)
This is the discipline that is applied by controlling our sexual power. Our sexual power should be transformed towards the upside of our body, so we restrain our sexual desire. In this process, we don’t have to suppress our sexual desire but we have to bring our attention to the knowledge of the supreme self. We have to make less our desire to the sensual happiness. We have to try to take pleasure in the matters which are related to the supreme power.
5. Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness)
In this formula, we practice to keep minimum things with us. This is the way of applying minimalism in our life. We should keep the things only that we need, but not which we want. If we can live in one cloth, we don’t have to use two. If we can live in two clothes, we don’t have to use three and so on.
This is the second step of Ashtanga Yoga formula. Niyama helps us to go into the deeper level. This is the system which helps us to control ourselves in the process of yoga. There are five branches of Niyama.
Saucha is the cleanliness of body and purity of the mind.
2. Santosha (Contentment)
Santosha means satisfaction by the situation where we are. It means we don’t have to be anything to be happy or to be satisfied.
3. Tapa (Persistence)
Tapa means the determination to continue our yoga at any cost. We have to be disciplined when we walk to get the destination of our yoga goal.
4. Svadhyaya (Study)
Svadhyaya means to gain the knowledge of the spirituality. To study the knowledge from the Veda, the famous scripture of Hinduism. We have to learn the wisdom from the level of the words and of the actions. We have to apply the knowledge that we learn. If we apply the knowledge in our life, that becomes the knowledge in the level of experience.
5. Ishvarpranidhana (Contemplation to the God)
In this part, we dedicate ourselves to the supreme God. We sacrifice our deeds and all the events to the God. We practice believing completely in the God.
This is the part that most of the people think is the real yoga. There is the concept that Asana is complete yoga but asana is only the part of Yoga. It is a special step in the eightfold path of Ashtanga yoga. This is a formula which can open the blockages of our body and mind. Our body has a lot of blockages and with the blockages, we can’t go ahead in the way of salvation.
This is also the part of the common practice of yoga teaching and learning nowadays. Pranayam is the process of breathing which helps to bring the oxygen to every cell of our body. This is very useful to open the blockages of our mind. This can eliminate the diseases of our body and mind. It cleanses our body and mind. It makes us ready for the meditation because we can’t meditate fully until we are not free from the blockages of our mind.
Pratyahara means to be near to the higher self or to be with the self rather than outside. We have to practice of self-awareness. Our focus should be in the inner world when we make our goal to be liberated in our life.
Dharana is the concentration on something higher than us. This is the focfus of mind. We have to train our mind making it one-mindedness towards the higher self. Our only goal is to achieve higher step of spirituality to be enlightened. It is the level where we practice of stillness.
Dhyana is the part that can happen in our life which cannot be practiced but it occurs in our life when we practice the level of concentration. When we practice concentration, we may suddenly experience Dhyan.
This is the last part of Ashtanga Yoga (the destination point of Ashtanga Yoga). Samadhi is the state of being blessed by the ecstasy, the supreme happiness. This is a state of the union of our self with the supreme self. When we achieve this state, we never see the separateness in the world with anyone or anything. There is oneness with all the parts of the universe. Everything and everyone is harmonious. There are two types of Samadhi.
1. Sabikalpa (Conditional) Samadhi
This is the state of ecstasy that we get for a short period of time then we come out from the Samadhi. This is the first step of Samadhi and we can achieve unconditional Samadhi after practicing this in our life.
2. Nirbikalpa (Unconditional) Samadhi
This is the state of Samadhi from where we never should come out from the ecstasy. This is the state of complete blessing, complete unification with the supreme self. This is the ultimate goal of yoga. If we achieve this Samadhi, we have nothing to be achieved in our life anymore. We never have to separate from the highest existence of the world when we achieve this Samadhi.
When we go through this eightfold path of yoga sutra (formula), we find that it is a systematic way of getting salvation in our life. Patanjali gives the exact technique which can lead us to the path of purification. It is not only the theoretical presentation of the facts but it is as practical as its theory if we apply it sincerely in our life with a teacher who has already got salvation by passing these eight limbs of yoga.