The world yoga is derived from the root yuj which means union or merger. The merger of soul with god and the experience of oneness with Him is meant by yoga. The state of Samadhi can be attained through yoga. This type of effort is possible only through the control over sense organs and through continued practice and detachment.
The withdrawal of sense organ from the worldly objects and their control is yoga. Samadhi is the ultimate stage of this control.
According to the Bhaguad Gita the practice of yoga fixes the mind on god thereby giving complete peace to the soul .in such a state a man experience unalloyed joys his mind stops wavering and worldly temptations lose all meaning for him. This state of mind is yoga. One who attains this state becomes a yogi. He attains eternal peace of mind. His mind is free from sins and worldly temptations. He then becomes one with God, free from the bondage of karmas.
Yoga has theoretical as well as practical side but more emphasis is laid on the practical aspect. Every practitioner perceives truth for himself during the practice of yoga. The reason why there is so much sorrow in the world is that man has befriended nature but has forgotten his other friends the supreme person. If he is able to establish his relationship with Him he would achieve the object his life. But to establish this relationship he has to take the path of yoga body is the means for achieving all virtues in yoga the physical aspect is not neglected but along with this there is continuous march towards salvation.
Our sages have mentioned eight fold processes, Ashtanga Yoga, to attain the purification of body, mind and soul as well as to achieve union with the Supreme Being. This includes Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Yamas mean self restraint. These are five in number.
a) Ahimsa: Not to cause injury to any living being through thought, words or deeds. In other words, love of the entire creation is Ahimsa.
b) Satya: Satya or truthfulness is saying exactly what one sees with one’s own eyes, hears with one’s own ears and understands through one’s own brain. It means that truthfulness should not only be external and internal also.
c) Asteya: Not to steal anything and not to be anything greedy of other wealth or possessions.
d) Brahmacharya: to keep one’s sense organs including the organs of procreation, under control and not to be tempted by the lustful enjoyment through thought, words and deeds.
e) Aparigraha: it means non-covetousness. In Asteya, one gives up stealing but may accept charity. But in Aparigraha, charity is also not accepted. Hoarding of wealth, riches and other materials of enjoyment for selfish ends is Parigraha, while the absence of these is Aparigraha.
Niyamas are also five.
a) Shaucha. It implies purity, internal and external. The purity of mind is specially to be emphasized. The body can be kept clean and pure by Sattivec food. Mind’s purity is achieved through giving up of attachment, jealousy and other base ideas, so that man’s thinking becomes pure and clean.
b) Santosha: It means contentment. One should be content with whatever is acquired while doing one’s duty truthfully or whatever is received through the grace of God.
c) Tapa: It means keeping the mind detached and under control and bear pleasure and pain, heat and cold, hunger and thirst with equanimity.
d) Swadhyaya: It is the study of spiritual books to gain real knowledge and spending one’s time in the company of good people and sages and exchanging ideas with them.
e) Ishwara Parinidhana: It is the complete surrender of self to god in words, deeds and thought. It implies worship of god, chanting of His name, hearing about Him and thinking of Him as all pervasive, omni-present and omniscient.
The daily asanas are a must for keeping the body fit and pure. These have been prescribed by sages for the control of our body and mind. The asana has been described as sitting in a posture, which is comfortable and which keeps the body straight and firm. To impart a state of effortlessness to the body, to do away with all the effects of over indulgence of the body in worldly affairs and to provide it necessary rest is the object of asanas.
Regular practice of asanas results in the purification of veins and nerves and promotion of general health of the body. The asanas are of two types. Those which are performed for the sake of Dhyana (mediation) such as Padmasana. The second types of asanas are meant to gain physical health. They are Sarvangasana, Bhujangasana etc. They tone up the entire body system and give it strength and vigor. There are several hundred asanas, alluded to by our sages.
The word meaning of Pranayama is the expansion of Prana or vital energy. The aim of Pranayama is to inspire, infuse, control, regulate and balance the Prana Shakti (vital energy) in the body.
As Bathing is necessary for the purification of body, similarly Pranayama is essential for the purification of mind. Pranayama helps to improve retention power and concentration power. This in turn leads to soundness of mind and soundness of body. The liver, the stomach, the kidneys, the veins and the entire nervous system get strengthened by the regular practice of Pranayama. It brings about equanimity and helps to destroy past Samskaras. By its regular practice, one is able to control the sense organs and the mind.
The withdrawal of the senses from their respective outside objects and projecting them inwards is Pratyahara. The senses are generally turbulent and restless. The practice of Pratyahara brings the senses under control, imparts to the body health and capability to enter Samadhi (Super conscious state).
Through the practice of Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas and Pranayama, the body becomes pure and healthy, mind and senses more restrained and peace. As a result, it is easy for to achieve concentration. One gets a glimpse of the powers of god and starts merging himself into Him. All these developments and achievements prepare ground for Pratyahara.
According to Patanjali, author of Astangayoga, this is how our external senses come in close and direct contact with mind and intellect.
Our external senses obtain knowledge about external objects, pass it on to the subtle senses in the brain and they in turn communicate it to the mind. The mind submits this to the intellect which passes its judgment on whether it is right or wrong. It then makes this knowledge available to the conscious body located in the heart in the form of Sasmskaras. Our conscious body or consciousness keeps on collecting all these Sasmskaras. Our conscious body or consciousness keeps on c. in this operation; our external senses then have a direct contact with our mind and intellect, but have no access to consciousness. Even in the state of sleep, only our subtle senses have contact with mind and intellect; the external senses remain unaffected and therefore do not show any reaction. As a result the eyes cannot see even if they are open, ears can not hear, hands do not move, and feet become inactive. Them the consciousness gets busy in self analysis or attains the Niruddha state and lies at rest, with the result that mind and intellect are also at peace. When the senses find that their master is at peace, they stop getting their food from the external world. In this way, the senses get detached from their objects of feeding and the mind and intellect attain complete rest. This state of mind and body is called Pratyahara.
Patanjali has included Pratyahara in the five external organs of Yoga: Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama and Pratyahara. Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are its internal organs.
Fixing one’s mind on an external object, subtle or otherwise, like heart, lotus, nose etc is called Dharana. After the practice of Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas and Pranayama, this becomes rather easy, especially after Pratyahara. Pratyahara brings the mind and the senses under control, so once the mind is at peace it can then concentrate successfully on ay object.
One who wants to achieve successes in Dharana should first regulate their food, thoughts, words and deeds.
Meditating with constant attention on the object of concentration is Dhyana. It is said that meditation purifies the mind as an alkali does gold and also makes it bright and sparkling.
It is the state of super consciousness and perfect calm. When the mind becomes one with the form of the object of this concentration in Dhyana, it leads to the state of Samadhi. It is the climax of Dhyana. When Dhyana achieves maturity, the mind loses the senses of duality with the object of concentration, leading to the state of Samadhi. One has to practise Dhyana in its fullest form to reach this stage