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The foreword: the correct continuation of the practice of Yoga

Before starting the  yoga training, we need to understand what yoga is. After all, what in today's world is called yoga is only a small part of it.

Yoga - derives from the Sanskrit verb "Youdzh - to merge, unite", hence yoga - a state of oneness with God, the Absolute; or - from the soul with reason (our mental part). And to get into this state, it is necessary to use different methods.

The Classic Yoga Sequence

There are many yoga exercises that can give a result, but in this course we are going to look at the classic 8-step yoga, which are categorized by the wise  Patanjali  in the second century BC.  Patanjali Classical Yoga  is the basis of the modern system of yoga  vedic  and  tantra. This is the classic educational system. This system must be studied by each and every one who sets out on the path of Yoga.

The 8 stages of yoga are:

Step #1 - Yama: the first step of yoga


Why is it important to adhere to non-violence, the refusal of lies, theft and undeserved goods.
We recommend that you carefully consider this stage of yoga, as it is the foundation of a successful practice.

The teachings of yoga contains  ten units of behavior  : five prohibited, and five prescriptive - “Yama” - means “Not to do” or - “control, manage” and “Niyama” means  - “what to do”, or - “self-regulation”.

Their importance is in the fact that they prevent the "leakage" of our energy. The number of these units involuntarily invites us to compare them to  Ten Commandments of Moses.

Between them, however, there is a difference:  Yama  and  Niyama  are not so much “commandments” but rather “recommendations”. They do not warn you of what will happen if you do not respect them, rather they show the advantages you will obtain in the case of respecting this tradition of behavior with others, and with 
oneself. They indicate the direction of development.

Let’s start with the “don’ts”:  It may seem strange that these principles are preceded by a negative definition. The reason is that they are approved as a virtue, in case you subtract otherwise:  negative qualities. Likewise, respect for each Yama contributes to the appearance of its opposite:  a virtue. Metaphorically speaking,  we remove the mud that covers the true gold of our being.


The Five Principles of Yama  :



















Yama is not a series of behaviors, but rather a relationship with the world around us.





Step #2 - Niyama


Why are purity of mind and body, contentment and acceptance of everything, ongoing formation, self-development, and devotion to God so important in Yoga?


The Five Principles of Niyama  :





































Step #3 - Asana


What are the benefits (physical, mental, spiritual) of practicing asanas?

The first practice of asanas can be difficult, because the body is not yet accustomed to the  static postures. But after 3-6 months when the body becomes more or less  malleable, you will begin to feel the energy flowing through the channels.
It is possible that this is accompanied by discomfort, trembling, where the channels are still restricted or blocked, or by lightness and the feeling of happiness, where the energy flows freely.
The body becomes
  robust and solid, many pathologies disappear. The person becomes more sure of himself because blocks of energy will be removed by the practice of  asanas. Many people associate asanas with gymnastic exercises. But this belief is wrong, because an asana is not designed for excessive development of muscle mass, unnecessary excess for the body.

  - a  steady position  in which the body and mind can be in a calm, relaxed and peaceful state.
In the "Yoga Sutras" of
  Patanjali  there is a concise definition of yoga postures: “Sthiram, sukham, asanam”, which means that the posture is comfortable and stable. Thus, the practice of postures in yoga aims to have a  healthy body, and to develop the ability to maintain (without feeling uncomfortable) the same posture for a long period of time. This ability is essential for the practice of meditation.


The  asanas  can also be made for the purposes  therapeutic  or of  Hobbies. The internal process during the asana exercise is as follows: muscle stress, followed by relaxation, gentle massage of internal organs, tonic effect on the nervous system. Asanas significantly improve the state of health  of the practitioner. Thus many diseases can be considerably weakened or even completely eliminated.

We can say that asanas are necessary to straighten the  nadi  (energy channels), so that the energy can flow freely. When the energy in our body is released, the body begins to "transform" from a "lambda" body to a body of  yogi.


the  yogi body  it is the body in which the energies (pranas) function correctly, which has opened its  chakras, which is neither inert nor in a state of laziness, and feels neither disease nor suffering.

When you have reached the level of the yogi body, you feel very comfortable, you have a  increased immunity, you are always full of energy, have a good appetite, and you experience joy. You wake up very easily, as if you have hardly slept, but just lie down, then think about something, then dream, the body rests, and you get up without feeling “heavy” (Tamas ).


Of course, such a state cannot be obtained by the practice of  asanas, but they are the  starting point.

Some benefits of practicing yoga:


physical  : with regular (and adapted) practice every  endocrine glands  of our nervous system secrete a  optimal amount of hormones. This normalizes both the physical and mental condition of the person. A malfunction of at least one of the glands significantly affects health, so it is essential that the  endocrine system  works well. Regular practice of asanas purifies and rejuvenates the organs, and restores their normal activities.


Muscles and bones, the endocrine and nervous system, the respiratory and renal systems, and the circulatory system are all coordinated to support  and facilitate the functioning of each other. 
The asanas make the
  body flexible and able to adapt  easily to changes in the environment; they stimulate the internal organs, so that the necessary number of juices is produced by the digestive juices (saliva, enzymes etc). 
  sympathetic and parasympathetic systems  are balanced, and the internal organs that are coordinated by these systems will not be in a state of hypo- or hyperactivity.


Summarizing the above, we can conclude that asanas keep the body in an optimal state and help restore the proper functioning of the organs.


psychics  : the  asanas  help build a  strong mind  and able to overcome life's problems. They develop determination and concentration. 
During regular asana practice, mental balance
  becomes the normal state of mind. You will be able to deal with problems and anxiety with great perspective. The mind  (the mind) becomes calm, the colors of life become brighter, and difficulties only strengthen the mind. 

The practice of the asanas awakens our dormant energies, and provokes a feeling of confidence in the entourage vis-à-vis the person who practices the asanas; but also his speech, his behavior and his actions express safety and serenity.


Witty  : Asana is the third step of the eight on  the path of Ashtanga Yoga, and at this stage the asanas prepare the body for more spiritual practices of yoga, namely:  Pratyahara  - distract his senses from the environment,  Dharana  - concentration,  Dhyana  - meditation and  samadhi  - realization of cosmic consciousness.


Some people believe that asanas - are just physical exercises, and have nothing to do with spiritual development. This view is totally wrong. For those seeking to awaken and develop their psychic abilities, asanas represent a  almost indispensable necessity.



Step #4 - Pranayama:


Pranayamas  (because there are several techniques) make the body extremely “light”, the brain clear and the mind serene. A huge amount of energy appears, laziness and apathy leave.

Prana  - a vital and essential force which impregnates by itself the whole universe. It is present everywhere: in rocks, insects, animals and humans.

Despite the close relationship between prana and the air we breathe - these concepts are not identical.  Prana  has a fine structure, and can be defined as internal energy, located in everything in the universe.

Yama  - means command/manage. Therefore, pranayama can be defined as a series of techniques whose purpose is to stimulate and increase vitality, and furthermore, to gain control over the  prana flow  (energies) in the body.



Step #5 - Pratyahara:

Pratyahara  - 5th stage of yoga: the senses get used to not perceiving external stimuli.


















The sense organs have a natural tendency to strive to react to  external stimuli. Thus, the eye tends to see color; the ear - seeks pleasure from music and other sounds; the tongue is eager to enjoy the flavors; the nose - perceives different aromas; as the organ of touch tends to seek tactile sensations.

When our sense organs are distracted by objects they will “wiggle” the brain and invite thought to follow those objects. And we remain their prisoners.


The mind constantly tries to return to its natural state of consciousness, but the senses drag it back. This exists because the senses tend towards what is pleasant, and the consciousness is attracted by what is useful and beneficial.

When the mind becomes able to concentrate, it obtains an enormous amount of psychic energy, which previously was distracted by the sense organs.


A person can be considered "pratyahara" when he can connect his mind with the senses or vice versa - separate it in order to concentrate, when the sense organs  are under control.


To start, you will need a  “qualitative” development  of the previous four stages of yoga. 
Mastery of
  rules of Yama and Niyama  leads the consciousness to a  harmonious state.
Mastery of
  asanas  is necessary so that the problems of the body do not interfere with concentration. 

The  Pranayam,  itself, does not only lead to the  management of breathing and subtle energies, but is preparatory to the elaboration of Pratyahara.

The fact is that monitoring the breath leads to quieting the mind, as well as the heart. The slowed heart helps calm our working receptor senses (touch, smell, taste, hearing and vision). And this, in turn, leads to a separation of the mind from the senses, which is the goal in  Pratyahara. 

The mind is so focused on the  breathing  that all the links between the mind and the sense organs, with the objects that stimulate them, are detached. It is not a state of sleep, the sense organs keep their capacity to react, but they do not participate in the cerebral work. The state of Pratyahara arises automatically during concentration, otherwise it is not possible because thoughts follow the mind in its concentration. 
  is a condition that occurs spontaneously most of the time; we cannot “create” it, we can simply create the necessary conditions for it.



Step #6 - Dharana:


On the way to knowing ourselves and the world around us, we must have the ability to focus our mind on the object of knowledge. A person with a strong ability to focus his mind is able to achieve any goals both in material and spiritual terms.

Dharana  or concentration - is the sixth step of the classic eightfold yoga. In the third chapter of "Patanjali's Yoga Sutra" concentration is defined as "fixation of the consciousness on a certain place." At the heart of the word "dharana" is the root "dhri", which means "to hold." 

The  concentration  - is  the individual's ability to capture and hold the mind indefinitely on a subject. In life, people often face situations when they need to focus on one thing, for example, writing a paper, listening to a lecture, trying to study a problem better. But it is very easy to divert one's attention, and as a rule, this concentration does not last long because fatigue comes quickly.

As a general rule, most people's thoughts are in  chaotic flow, and undergo uncontrolled wandering, and their minds can be compared to carts drawn by horses, but without a coachman. Horses steer themselves where they want because no one controls them. Due to the uncontrolled state of mind, it is difficult to concentrate on anything, thoughts are jumping all the time.

During the conversation, the person easily loses the main thread of the conversation, can hardly summarize the book he has just finished reading, does not remember the events of the day and so on. And this is not because he is intellectually “weak”, but because of the lack of ability to concentrate.

This quality should be developed by any person, at any age. It is not important whether or not the person is engaged in a  spiritual process. Concentration not only improves memory, attention and ability to perceive, it also makes the mind sharp, gives the person the opportunity to live fully by being aware of each of his actions and thoughts.


Thus, concentration is the ability to  keeping the mind on an important thought, idea, or image, the various types of anxiety and hesitation disappear, and the mind is focused on a single topic.

In the normal state of our consciousness, it scatters in different directions and is attracted to different subjects. At the time of  deep concentration, the mind is focused on one point. 
When our mind is interested in something, or focused on a single topic, we don't notice what is happening around us. We do not perceive sounds or smells, and even forget our physical body. For example, when the writer is composing the subject for his new book, his mind will be focused on that almost constantly. Yes, he will communicate with someone, talk, move, but at the same time his mind is constantly invaded by the idea of the book. The whole environment will not be important for him, because the writer's consciousness will be occupied, captivated, by only one object - the new scenario.

This is called concentration, when the mind is fixed on one point, on one object.

However, between this concentration of the majority of people and the  focus of the yogi  there is a very big difference. Yogi can concentrate on whatever he wants at all times, but the common person cannot, because he does not know how to control his mind.

Dharana, with most people who are unacquainted with the art of concentration, is spontaneous, it occurs only in the case of interest or passion, and the yogi's concentration is always conscious and constant.
Try sitting down and simply focusing on an object in front of you. And you'll see in a second that the mind begins to fill with a variety of ideas that will swing your attention from one subject to another. The
  conscious focus  can be learned through patience and perseverance.


For those who practice  yoga, it is important to remember that the practice of concentration is not possible without the development of the previous five stages of yoga. How can you concentrate if you are preoccupied with problems, if your head is full of various thoughts, if you are overwhelmed with emotions?

First, you must first learn to channel your mind. This is why the person practicing yoga should climb each stage, starting with the first, with the  moral and ethical principles, namely, with  Yama.

If this step is neglected, then the mind will always be solicited by external desires. If a person is full of passion, anger, and emotions, they are unlikely to be able to focus on anything, at least for a few seconds. The  Niyamas  offer the person the way of life that leads him to perfection, to the release of large amounts of energy necessary for his spiritual development. The  asanas  prepare the physical body for the absence of comfort, make the body healthy, so as to make it an ally. 

The  pranayama  teaches us to control the  flow of energy, and during the practice of  Pratyahara, the fifth step, we are going to learn to reject sensations coming from the outside world. And only then can we begin to master the sixth stage - the  Dharana. It is impossible to succeed in Dharana without building a solid foundation through the first five steps.

When a person can keep their attention on the selected object indefinitely, they automatically start the  transition from the stage of Dharana to Dhyana. We will discuss this in the next step.



Step #7 - Dhyana:


Dhyana  - is the seventh stage of Yoga. If Dharana is defined by Patanjali as "the fixation of consciousness on a single point", then Dhyana - is a "reflection of consciousness on that point." 
In other words, this is a reflection on any object: a “stream of controlled consciousness”.
  - is part of Dhyana. By practicing Dhyana we learn to think of a  phenomenon or concept. The  ability to concentrate (Dharana) is at the heart of all thinking. Concentration is part of  meditation. 
It is no coincidence that the French verb “to meditate” is defined as “a deep reflection” by
  Larousse. No thought is possible without attention and concentration.

Dharana, concentration on an object, can be compared to a horse tied with a rope to a post. The horse is immobile, it cannot escape. 
In the Dhyana we have a horse that moves, walks (reflections) around the pole, but it is still bound (concentrated) there and cannot go far.

Buddha said: "A concentrated mind sees things in their true nature."

Dharana  aims to determine the specific object, to formulate the conditions of the problem to be solved. Dharana - it is the attachment of your mind, your reasoning, your consciousness to a particular subject. 
  - it is the reflection on the given subject. It is difficult to capture the moment of the transition from  concentration  (Dharana) to the  meditation  (Dhyana).

At the stage of  Dharana, the man collects the facts, all the relevant information on the subject studied. It does not “process” them, but remembers them and stores them in its memory. 
And then he begins the natural process of comparing facts which will not fail to lead him to his analysis and reflection.
This process, in turn, leads to the fact that the person will have some unexpected new thoughts about the object of his reflection. Thus, in the mind of the person, begins to be born without his knowledge, ideas about the object, coming from nowhere.

This phenomenon of  creation of ideas  is not something mysterious or mystical as some people think. Nothing of the sort. The person simply begins to receive ideas, thoughts on a subject, but these ideas and thoughts belong to him because he thinks differently.

Usually, when we think of something, the mind bases itself on existing experience, and on a plurality of matrices and prejudices. The mind wanders in the middle of it all, turns in circles. Consciousness cannot create something radically new because the field of consciousness is very narrow, tied to already known facts.

A man may not even understand how this knowledge comes to him, or for that matter, if he created it himself. In fact, it is not important whether this knowledge comes from outside or from inside. It is important that they penetrate the human mind, which is already involved in solving the problem. 
this is
  Dhyana  : the human mind begins the process of the birth of its own knowledge as to the subject on which it focuses.

The Dhyana stage is considered mastered when a person is able to not just “meditate” on a given topic, but, more importantly, self-generate new ideas and knowledge on that topic.

When one reflects on a particular subject, and examines it from all sides, sooner or later one's thoughts will acquire a totally different quality. At this stage, the person will see and understand what was the real cause of his problems. And then she will be hit with a strong sense of relief, as if the mountain has fallen from her shoulders. This is what we call  Samadhi.



Step #8 - Samadhi:


We can say that for the  Yogi Samadhi  opens the door to infinity, gives immortality at the level of consciousness.
What does it mean, immortality at the level of consciousness?
This means that the consciousness of the yogi is not interrupted either in dream or in reality, or even at the moment of death. Such a yogi can control the process of rebirth.
I would like to make some clarifications to the questions on the
  Meditation and Samadhi, which are generally assumed to be the ultimate goal, the crown of Yoga. These two terms are  most frequently used when talking about spiritual yoga, or raja yoga.

To begin with, the word "meditation" or "meditacio" is of Latin origin, and does not refer to anything other than reflection. Therefore, it is not purely Indian, and, strictly speaking, in yoga this term does not exist at all.
And when we try to use it in the context of yoga, as a rule, this term is used in contrario to its true value, i.e., we speak of meditation as the inverse of thought. , absence of reflection, emptiness of consciousness, cessation of internal dialogue, etc.

Regarding the concept of "samadhi", there are two ways in which the term is used in the wrong sense:

The first - is a “childish” understanding of someone who has sunk into  Samadhi. Here we take Samadhi as a very unusual state of consciousness, which is accompanied by a strong inner ecstasy, a vision of God, etc., external effects, such as a bright light around the head, a puff of smoke from the ears, nostrils, anus.

The second - the other extreme, where on the contrary a person believes that he has known samadhi for a long time, that there is nothing special, and these are only beautiful inner feelings.

In reality, it would be fairer, with regard to the  Yoga, to speak of the so-called "sanyama", which in Sanskrit means "a dive into something", This process of immersion is arbitrarily divided into three stages: primary, secondary and final, which corresponds to  Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. 
Naturally, this subject is quite complex, and such practices should be done only in a real traditional school under the direct supervision of the
  Guru, who is well versed in this subject.

The human brain has two hemispheres - left and right, and the hemispheres are lateralized, meaning they are not strictly speaking duplicative, unlike other internal organs that function identically and "overlap" each other. such as kidneys and lungs. The presence of two hemispheres embodies on the physical plane the two faculties of the human mind to know the world around us:

In a way, what corresponds to the left hemisphere, is associated with a person's ability to separate everything about "me" and "not-me" about myself and the world of others, about the subject and surrounding objects. In this case, knowledge is done in such a way that the subject cannot integrate the object, and is only able to study the object through the study of the properties it possesses.

Another capacity of the human mind, which on the physical plane corresponds to the right hemisphere, is the indissoluble fusion of the human "self" and the world, or, to be more precise, the presence of yogi consciousness in the universe, as a part  inseparable  of this one. In this case, an observer who wants to study an object from the outside world should first merge with that object.

However, if one speaks succinctly, this wording is not entirely accurate, since right-hemisphere consciousness implies the notion of a non-divisible world between subjects and objects. And so, in this case, there is neither the observer nor the observed, but there is simply the possibility for man to become a part of “space”.

Therefore, there are two techniques of Sanyama which lead to two types of Samadhi:
  - “savikalpa samadhi”  (meditation <=> reflection)
  - and “nirvikalpa samadhi” (without reflection)

Of course, the second method does not outperform the first, just as the right hemisphere of the brain is not "better" than the left.

Here is a graphical representation of the transition from Dharana (1) and Dhyana (2) to  Samadhi (3):














PS  In the article were used the phrases and quotes quoted in the book  “The heart of Yoga” by TKV Deshikachar, son of  Krishnamacharia, Indian philosopher and yogin.

Author: A. Papin








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