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Yoga -Astanga Marga


There is a lot of misunderstanding and misconception about the spiritual practices of Eastern Hemisphere, especially of India. This is mostly because the ancient spiritual treatises of India have been spread in the language of Sanskrit, which is a language of the educated not common man. There are various meanings for a single word in Sanskrit and the meaning applicable at the situation is to be identified with diligence.

I would like to clear the misconceptions of the westerners about many spiritual things belongs to India. Yoga is a very broad term and being used by many in different situations with different meanings. 'Yoga Sastra', the science of Yoga, is a pure and applied science with many applications starting from achieving Natural health to ultimate realization and Union with God.

What is Yoga?

'Yoga' is a Sanskrit word meaning 'Union' in general English.

What is this union?

Union of Individual Soul and Universal Soul. In other words Union with


How to achieve it?

The ultimate purpose of all the scriptures of Ancient India is to lead the human soul towards the Union with Universal Soul. Thus, the science of Yoga is inherent in every scripture of Ancient India. The four VEDAS RIG, YAJUR, SAMA & ADHARVANA and UPANISHADS (numbering more than 108) reveals various ways of achieving the YOGA.

Based on the Principal method being applied to achieve Yoga various types of 'Yogas' have been named. Some of the Important being - Bhakthi Yoga (Yoga of Devotion), Jnana Yoga (Yoga of Knowledge), Raja Yoga (The Yoga path given by Pathanjali in his yoga Suthras) also called Astanga Marga (The eight limbed path), Hata Yoga (Yoga path given by Swami Shadmarma) also called as Shadanga Marga.

Anybody can learn 'Yoga' with constant practice, as we are able to learn any other science.

Yoga is a practical science and we should learn it by understanding its concepts and practicing in day to day life. Both theory and practice are important.

We will go into the details of theory and practice of YOGA in the coming


Yoga Chitta vritthi Nirodaha - cessation of the activity of mind is Yoga

PATHANJALI describes ASTANGA MARGA as under.

II 28. yoga-anga-anusthanad asuddhi-ksye jnana-diptir a viveka-khyateh

Through the practice of the following (eight) limbs of yoga the obstructions and impurities which occlude the vision of truth are destroyed, which in turn allows the inherent self existent effulgent awareness to shine forth revealing the intrinsic all inclusive profound unity.

II 29. yama-niyama-asana-pranayama-pratyhara-dharana-dhyanasamadhayo'stav-angani

The eight limbs of yoga are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi

II 30. Ahimsa-satya-asteya-brahmacarya-aparigraha yamah

Non- violence, Truthfulness, Honesty (non-stealing / Non exploitation), Bramhacharya (continuity, centeredness, celibacy) and Nonpossessiveness

The above five are called YAMAS. Let us discuss them one by one, which are basis for any spiritual practice.

AHIMSA (NON-VIOLENCE): This is to completely eradicate violence from one's inner-self. The very thought of inflicting others is to be removed from the mind. Nothing can be achieved by harming ourselves or others. The positive side of non-violence is nothing but Love. When your heart is filled with love no thought of violence arises in you. Such state is congenial for yoga practice.

To harm others is to harm ourselves. why should one harm others ? There is no need to harm once we understand our true nature and essence.

As per the Vedic tradition there are six kinds of Foes for every person, if one can conquer those he can become a master, a yogi.

ari shadvargaha (foes are of six kinds) They are (kama krodha lobha moha madha masthsrya) desire/lust, anger,greed, delusion, arrogance and

Desire/lust (kama) is the first enemy. The desire to have possessions

and longing for things that are not yours makes you a servant to that desire. The lesser your needs the happier you are. Once you are guided and dragged by desire and that is not fulfilled you get your second enemy in line.

Anger (krodha) is your second enemy. Once you loose your temper you loose your control on yourself. In this state your mind is unstable and your power of judgment will become faulty.

Greed (lobha) is a worst enemy, which wanted to have everything for oneself. No sharing, no social obligations, a direct opposite to love.

Delusion (moha) - you are living in your own world of possessions filled with lust and greed. Not able to see the realities of life and your own nature.

Arrogance (mada) is the worst expression of ego. You feel like you are supreme and everyone else is your slave.

Jealously (masthsrya) - You cannot tolerate others having any wealth, possessions and all others should have nothing. Truthfulness (Satya): Removing veils of falsehood and deceit from our lives. With or without purpose man tends to lie to keep falsehoods. First let us be truthful to ourselves, in every action. The more we are far from falsehood the more we are nearer to truth.

What we gain by being false? To keep a lie alive, we have to lie a hundred times. We have to live in conceit, a life of deception.

To follow the path of truthfulness, we only need courage, Courage to face the realities of life. Honesty (non-stealing / Non exploitation) Asteya:The meaning of

Asteya is abstinence from theft .

Why we should steel from somebody else? Because, we are not satisfied with what we had; because of our desires (un-bridled), because of greed. Again we are coming across our foes (the six foes referred above).

To have the state of Asteya, we should have self-satisfaction. We have to conquer our first foe, desire.

The mind will be pure if we can practice Asteya. Let us learn it by practice, by learning self-satisfaction

Bramhacharya (continuity, centeredness, celibacy) : The general

meaning of Bramhacharya is celibacy. It is to control ones sexual thoughts.

But the etymological meaning of the word is something different. Bramha + Charya = the creative princple + the action. That means the action done by the creative principle. In other words we can say

that Bramhacharya means centeredness, avoiding extremes, restricting wavering.

Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness): The last of Yamas is non possessiveness. The desire of owning things is possessiveness. It is a part of Kama (desire) our first enemy. Once we have decided to fight against this enemy, we can easily overcome the part. Now we come to discuss what are Niyamas.

sauca-samtosa-tapah-svadhyaya-isvara-pranidhanani niyamah

These Niyamas compliment and gets complimented by Yamas. Saucha (purity): Purity of thoughts and actions, avoiding unclean thoughts. Santosha (contentment and peacefulness): Happiness by contentment. Tapas (spiritual passion and fire): Continuous and constant quest for God realization. Swadhyaya (self study and mastery): Study of scriptures and their interpretation to life. Isvara pranidhana (surrender to the Universal Great Integrity of Being): In simple words it is surrender to God, by which name you call it.

By practicing these Niyamas One can control the wavering of the Mind, which is the greatest obstacle to achieving Yoga (The Union)

The Yamas & Niyamas are the primary requisites for Yoga (whether it is Kriya Yoga, Bhakthi Yoga, Jnana Yoga)

sthira-sukham asanam prayatna-saithilyananta-samapattibhyam tato dvandvanabhighatah

ASANA: Pathanjali has given a very short description about Asana.

1) Asana (pose) should be stable /steady and it should give joy

2) By effort, by aligning with the endless the synchronicity of balance is achieved.

3)By this way the duality is resolved.

This reveals that Asana should be steady and one should easily can sit in that pose to whatever extent needed. It should align body, mind and soul. Based on these principles later on so many asanas have been formulated by many Yogis. In Hatha Yoga tradition we have so many asanas described, we can discuss them separately. By aligning with the infinite (Cosmos) through asana one can achieve Yoga.

Pranayama: The most important Limb of Astanga Marga, which is the

basis for controlling mind and regularizing the energy flow into the body, is Pranayama. The limbs of Astanga Marga can be classified as under for convenience based on their utility. Yama, Niyama, Asana - Body Asana, Pranayama, Pyathyahara - Mind Pyathyahara, Dharana, Dhyana - Soul Pathanjali describes Pranayama in very simple terms as under. tasmin sati svasa-prasvasayor gati-vicchedah pranayamah (After establishing in Asana, the observation and Analysis of Inhalation and Exhalation is called Pranyamah) bahyabhyantara-stambha-vrttir desakala-samkhyabhih paridrsto dirghasuksmah (To be observed and analysed: the external, internal, cessation, nature and pattern, location, duration and repetition(no. of times), subtleness and extenuation (Of breath/Prana) After sitting firmly in Asana, one should observe the inflow and outflow of his own breath. Keen observation and utmost concentration is needed here to see how the breath is flow into and out of our body. In the beginning it is very difficult to observe the flow in full, as it is very subtle and henceforth not observed.

Practical tips for observation& Analysis: Sit in any Asana, which is comfortable and steady, with spine erect. Gently close eyes. Keep your mind pointed towards the nostrils from where the breath enters into your being. Dont inhale with effort; the breath should be effortless and natural. Find out whether the air is entering from one nostril or both nostrils, in general we breathe from a one nostril at a time. It can be either left or right. Observe where it is going from the tip of your nose. In the beginning you may be able to observe flow just upto the root of the nose, where both nostrils join together. But by practice and increase in concentration you can able to observe the breath deep into your body. Similarly observe the outflow of breath. The breath may be swirling, while going in or out. At times it stops (cessation), keenly observe the process of cessation. Observe the place, where the cessation is occurring. Whether this cessation giving comfort or pain? In fact, prana is not mere breath, it is the vital energy flowing through our entire body. Feel the sensation of energy in your every limb while it is flowing through. You need not guide it, you just observe it, it will guide you. The nature of flow is directly related to your physical condition & mood swings and vice versa. Note: Some people call the above mentioned as Meditation, it is not correct. You have to cross two more steps to enter into the profound state of meditation. With love Pineal (Rama Chandra Raju Kalidindi)