In the journey of Yoga we often question our daily practice. Especially when we start working on harder postures, which put us in physical and mental discomfort situation. Our breathing becomes irregular, the mind asks us why we are there and our body complains to pain. It is exactly at this point (which can come at different times for each individual) that many students quit or the true understanding of what is yoga happens.

Although the practice of asanas be deeply diffused and published in the West and be very beneficial, the path of Yoga as a lifestyle is built with much more than just postures. The most-revered ancient sourcebook for yoga practice, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra describes how the mind works and how we can integrate yoga into our lives. Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga includes eight components of practice (“ashtanga” means “eight-limbed” in Sanskrit) and they are daily practices of conduct we must follow to have a life of yoga.

The first four angas refer to external and moral practices and the last four refer to internal practices. Are they:

  1.  YAMAS: control, dominance, referimento. Make up this anga five moral qualities:
    – Ahimsa: non violence. No physical violence, mental, emotional, by words, gestures, actions, thoughts against ourselfs, other beings and the world.
    Satya: truth. Cultivate the truth, do not lie. Be true in thoughts, feelings, words and actions.
    – Asteya: do not steal, do not covet or envy goods and achievements of others.
    Brahmacharya: moderation of the senses, focus, celibacy, stable partner, not detract sexuality. The relentless pursuit of pleasure in things that are out of us, keeps us from our nature.
    – Aparigraha: no possessiveness. Abstention from greed and act to accumulate.
  2.  NIYAMAS: are disciplinary and constructive
    -Saucha: purity, purification. External physical purity – maintain personal, environmental hygiene. Inner purity – means cleansing of the mind, keep away from the mind thoughts of anger, jealousy, fear, guilt, pride and negative reactions in general.
    -Santosha: contentment. It is the ability to remain satisfied no matter what.
    Tapas: determination, effort to achieve a goal.
    Swadhyáya: self study and scripture study. The swadhyáya broadens the horizons of intellect, enriches and stimulates practice.
    – Iswara Pranidhana: surrender. It is interpreted as surrender to God and can be seen as an act of surrender to something greater than ourself. It means doing the best we can, knowing that the result is not in our hands.
  3.  ASANAS: they are the physical postures that strengthen and purify the body.
  4.  PRANAYAMA: Breathing restraint or breathing exercises. The formal practice of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force.
  5. PRATYAHARA: The term pratyahara is made up of two Sanskrit words, prati and ahara. Ahara means food, or something you put inside. Parti is a preposition meaning from or out. Pratyahara means then control ahara, or have control over external influences.
  6. DHARANA: the state of concentration. The binding of consciousness to a single spot. This ability to focus all the mind’s attention toward one thing is the foundation of the next limb.
  7. DHYANA: meditation. Instead of thinking of meditation as some dreamy state in which thoughts do not happen at all – instead of trying to quiet something that by nature is never quiet – pay total attention to the agitations which are my thoughts and just let them come and go.
  8. SAMADHI: enlightenment. A state of being intensely present  and understand our true nature that is pure consciousness.

Of course this is a summary and that all these issues, especially the last four (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi) need years of study and understanding so that they can be understood and perhaps incorporated. But what I bring here is a broader horizon for what we call the practice of yoga. This understanding that the postures are just one piece of the path  gives us the possibility of applying the practice of yoga at any time and situation of our daily life.

Om Shanti