The Eight Limbs of Yoga

“The final stage is Samadhi, where we enter a phase in which we transcend the concept of dualism. We lose our sense of individuality and experience a sense of completeness. We see through the veil of maya, if only for short periods. We experience reality for what it is, not through our individual and collective neurosis”

The last four limbs of Patanjalis Ashtanga yoga system describe Pratayahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. This article is primarily looking at the last three, but a recap of Pratayahara seems prudent. Pratayahara is the first of the last four limbs and is usually described as sense withdrawal. I prefer to think of it as withdraw from the outcome of our sensory apparatus. At this stage we can’t not be aware of what our senses are perceiving, but we do have a choice as to whether we engage with them.

The final three stages are often studied together and are collectively called Antaratma Sadhana, the inner most quest.

The next stage is Dharana, and involves training the mind to stay at a single point. The mind will constantly want to attach itself to something new, and this may be a result of our ancestor’s survival instincts. When we needed to constantly alert to the potential dangers of being hunted ourselves, or the need to be aware of possible food. It would be a useful tool for the mind to be in this mode. This stage will take some effort to overcome, the mind will give us lots of opportunities to become attached to one of its thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts will appear to offer pleasure, and sometimes displeasure, it’s important to remember there is no good or bad, just our subjective idea of these concepts. The more we practice detachment the more we progress.

After much practise the mind will spontaneously enter the stage of Dhyana. The ability to hold the mind at a single point for extended periods, this is the stage which most of us would call meditation, the mind enters a calm stage and our thoughts slow down and no longer have the ability to distract us. We have the ability to be completely aware without focus.

“The final stage is Samadhi, where we enter a phase in which we transcend the concept of dualism. We lose our sense of individuality and experience a sense of completeness. We see through the veil of maya, if only for short periods. We experience reality for what it is, not through our individual and collective neurosis”

The challenge for us all is to remember to remain detached from our experience’s during our Antaratma Sadhana, it is very tempting to try to recreate our experiences of bliss and completeness, the trap for us all is this then becomes a dead end. Patanjali tells us very clearly we must not be attached to the outcome of our practice, or Siddhis. This I fear is where we are now with yoga in the West, we only need to look at the images on facebook, and the current trend of the likes of hot yoga. This is a clear demonstration of being attached to the potential outcomes of a yoga practice, and where it takes with yoga is not clear. I find myself disillusioned with what is going on with yoga and the way people in the yoga community behave to one another.