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The Eightfold Path




The Eight Limbs of Yoga to attain purification and union of the body, mind, and spirit from the Yoga Sutras of Maharishi Patanjali:


1. YAMA: (Self restraint) Five attitudes to cultivate toward others:
(Both Yama and Niyama are connected with ethics and morality.)
a. Ahimsa: Non violence, not to cause injury to any living being by thought word, or deed.
b. Satya: Truthfulness; mindful communication through word, writing, gesture, and action.
c. Asteya: Non-stealing and not to be greedy of other's wealth and possessions, the ability to resist a desire for that which does not belong to us.
d. Brahmacharya: Conservation of energy. To keep one's sense organs, including organs of procreation under control and not to be tempted by lustful pleasures by thought, word, and deed.
e. Aparigraha: Non-greed, non-covetousness, accepting only what is appropriate.

2. NIYAMA: Attitudes to cultivate toward ourselves:
a. Saucha: Means purity, cultivating cleanliness of body and mind. The body can be kept clean through sattvic diet, yogic purifications, etc. Mind's purity is achieved through giving up attachment, jealousy, and other base ideas so that the individual's thinking becomes pure and clean.
b. Santosha: Contentment. Ability to feel comfortable with what we do or do not have.
c. Tapas: Accepting mental, physical, and emotional discomfort and accepting it with equanimity. Taking such experience as an opportunity for growth, learning, and spiritual transformation.
d. Svadhyaya: Self-study, study of spiritual teachings to gain true knowledge, spending one's time in the company of good people and exchanging spiritual wisdom and it's application in one's life.
e. Isvara Pranidhanan: Self surrender: allowing ourselves to be guided by Truth.

3. ASANA: Revitalization of the physical body through poses (asana) with awareness, balancing effort, comfort, and relaxation. Patanjali describes asana as a pose that gives steadiness and comfort. Such an asana is needed for deep mediation so one can be free of body awareness and hindrances.

4. PRANAYAMA: The practice of breathing techniques leading to enhancement of subtle energy flow, energizing the body and mind. Pranayama activates the Sushumna nadi and influences the entire nervous system, thereby developing the latent powers of man.

5. PRATYAHARA: Education of the senses and the ability to withdraw them and project them inwardly to achieve spiritual goals.

6. DHARANAConcentration: The beginning stages of learning to focus the mind. In Dharana, a set of conditions are created that helps to focus the mind in one direction on an object such as a candle, a yantra, or a chosen sacred image. The term ‘dharana’ can imply both the practice of concentration and the state in which one achieves deep concentration.


7.
DHYANA: Meditating with the flow of minds energy directed towards an object of concentration such as breath, mantra, yantra, sacred image, etc.. Dhyana purifies the mind and makes it bright and sparkling. In Dhyana, the mind becomes absorbed and not conscious of the act of meditation yet one is aware that he/she exists (consciousness of being). Dhyana is distinct from Dharana, in that the practitioner contemplates free from distractions in his mind during Dhyana. With practice, the process of Dhyana awakens self-awareness of soul, the purusha or Atman and to the fundamental level of existence and Ultimate Reality wherein a blissful state of freedom and liberation is experienced, leading towards Samadhi.


8.
SAMADHIState of super-consciousness, absorption, perfect calm, Shantih. It is the highest state of spirituality, the Stateless state wherein experience is of Oneness with all of Creation. There are also varied  levels (states) of Samadhi. Sri Maharshi Patanjali describes these varied states in his Yoga Sutras.