Monday, March 31, 2008

Raja Yoga-Eight Limbed Yoga

raja yoga: (Sanskrit) "King of yogas." Also known as ashtanga yoga, "eight-limbed yoga." The classical yoga system of eight progressive stages to Illumination as described in various yoga Upanishads, the Tirumantiram and, most notably, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

The eight limbs are as follows.

1) yama: "Restraint." Virtuous and moral living, which brings purity of mind, freedom from anger, jealousy and subconscious confusion which would inhibit the process of meditation.

2) niyama: (Sanskrit) "Observance." Religious practices which cultivate the qualities of the higher nature, such as devotion, cognition, humility and contentment- giving the refinement of nature and control of mind needed to concentrate and ultimately plunge into samadhi.

3) asana: "Seat or posture." A sound body is needed for success in meditation. This is attained through hatha yoga, the postures of which balance the energies of mind and body, promoting health and serenity, e.g., padmasana, the "lotus pose," for meditation. The Yoga Sutras indicate that asanas make the yogi impervious to the impact of the pairs of opposites (dvandva), heat-cold, etc.

4) pranayama: "Mastering life force." Breath control, which quiets the chitta and balances ida and pingala. Science of controlling prana through breathing techniques in which lengths of inhalation, retention and exhalation are modulated. Pranayama prepares the mind for deep meditation.

5) pratyahara: "Withdrawal." The practice of withdrawing consciousness from the physical senses first, such as not hearing noise while meditating, then progressively receding from emotions, intellect and eventually from individual consciousness itself in order to merge into the Universal.

6) dharana: "Concentration." Focusing the mind on a single object or line of thought, not allowing it to wander. The guiding of the flow of consciousness. When concentration is sustained long and deeply enough, meditation naturally follows.

7) dhyana: "Meditation." A quiet, alert, powerfully concentrated state wherein new knowledge and insight pour into the field of consciousness. This state is possible once the subconscious mind has been cleared or quieted.

8) samadhi: "Enstasy," which means "standing within one's self." "Sameness, contemplation." The state of true yoga, in which the meditator and the object of meditation are one.

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