Yama niyama asana pranayama pratyahara dharana dhayna samadhayah – II.29 –
PATANJALI’S 8 STEPS OF YOGA
Yama is moral conduct or social discipline
Niyama is fixed observances or self discipline
Asana is practice of postures for physical discipline
Pranayama is regulation of breath for mental discipline
Pratyahara is internalization of the senses
Dharana is concentration
Dhyana is meditation
Samadhi is self realization
The first five steps are known as the disciplines of yoga. They still the mind and senses in preparation for the last 3 aspects. The last 3 are classed as attainments of yoga, which result in spiritual wisdom. These may also bring supernormal attainments such as clairvoyance, the conquest of hunger or the ability to become light or heavy. It is the detachment towards these attainments that lead to the freedom of the soul.
Yama is rules of morality for society which transcend creed, country, age and race. They are non-violence (ahimsa), truth (satya), non-stealing (asteya), continence (brahmacharya) and non-coveting (aparigraha). The emotions of greed, desire and attachment are why social morality falls, bringing with it chaos, untruth, stealing, dissipation and covetousness.
Niyama is the rules of conduct that apply to the individual. It is self- discipline. They are purity (saucha), contentment (santosa), ardour and austerity (tapas), study of the self (svadhyaya) and dedication to lord (isvara pranidhana).
Asana has three components – body, intelligence and mind. Asana is a state where one arranges and assumes a particular position or form and reforms it with study for right configuration. It works on a physical level and also affects psychology aspects which affect our mood, confidence and focus.
Pranayama is practiced once the body is under control, the spine firm and nerves calm. It comprises of three movements – inhalation, exhalation and retention. Awareness is the most important factor. When in a supine position the serenity of the brain and mind is maintained and dynamic action of body is achieved, then sitting pranayama can be started.
Pratyahara is withdrawing the senses and consciousness from contact with external objects and then drawing them inwards towards the seer. It is a cross over from perception of senses towards the conception of the mind.
Dharana is established when the mind learns to remain steady on its own. It has three components – mind, intelligence and the I-ness. It is to tone and tune the mental faculty.
Dhyana is a steady continuous flow of attention directed towards the same point or region. It brings the complexity of the mind to a state of serenity, humility and simplicity.
Samadhi is when the object of meditation engulfs the meditator, appearing as the subject and self -awareness is lost.