Articles by Ajaryans
Articles by Ajaryans

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Yoga Philosophy

Ashtanga yoga according to Maharishi Patanjali

The yoga sutras of Pantanjali, thought to be as old as 500 BC are traditional guides that outline the principles and practices of yoga philosophy and meditation for self-realization.

Yoga is a journey within, constantly exploring and moving through the various levels of our being. It’s about examining our internal states of consciousness and clearing out the clouded mind, to enable us to manifest the center of our consciousness, “the self” in its true form and to experience highest joy of purity.

The great sage Pantanjali wrote about his thoughts and knowledge of yoga sutras, for his and future generations’ wellbeing and enlightenment.

He compiled In his text several procedures to regulate and free mind from delusion and material world delusions through highest concentration. The ultimate goal isunification of the true self with the absolute reality.

In other words, the yoga sutras are blueprints for moral living life applying the principles the Patanjali Yoga presents.

Though the yoga sutras describe not a single asana, most western cultures think of yoga, as Asanas or postures only. True yoga is more than unifying the body, mind and spiritual awareness together

Yoga literally means union i.e. to join and sutra thread. Thus, Pantanjali yoga sutras text is a “tapestry” of insight and direct experience of living a pure life through yoga.

Patanjali’s sutras explain the yogic wisdom, which in brieffollow:
  • To understand the nature of the mind, the universe and the true Self,
  • To understand the importance of pursuing worldly prosperity and spiritual growth,
  • To know how knowledge, action and meditation influence your future experiences,
  • To gain insights into your personality and the situations you find yourself in,
  • Now to deepen your meditation practice,

Patanjali Yoga treatise comprises of eight parts called Ashtanga Yoga (AS), - Ashta in Samskrit meaning eight and anga path or limb - aka eight limbs of yoga. Details follow:


Yama is social behavior code; i.e. how you treat others and the world around you. These are moral principles, akin to “Dos” and Dont’s” or “The thou shalt Nots”

There are 5 Yamas
  • Ahimsa (Non violence); Do no harm any creature in thought or deed.
  • Satya (Truth and honesty); tell no lies.
  • Asteya (Non stealing); do not steal material objects or intangibles such as the center of attention or your child’s chance to learn responsibility or independence by doing something on his own.
  • Brahmacharya (Non lust) Avoid meaningless sexual encounters
  • Aparigraha (Non possessiveness) Free yourself from greed, hoarding and collecting(make your life as simple as possible.)


Niyama,sometimes called observances, aka“the dos” or the “thou shalts” is inner discipline and responsibility; i.e. how we treat ourselves.

There are 5 Niyamas

  • Shauca (Purity);one achieves purity through the negative – (positive?) - physical and mental states of being, keeping one, and one’sclothing and surroundings clean, eating fresh and healthy food. In other words “Treat your body like a temple” is the essence.
  • Santosha (Contentment);cultivate contentment and tranquility by being content and satisfied with what you have and who you are; seek happiness in the moment, take responsibility for where you are and choose to grow from there.
  • Tapas (Austerity); discipline body, speech and mind. The purpose of developing self-discipline is not to become ascetic, but to control and direct the mind and body for higher spiritual aims or purposes.
  • Svadhyaya (Sacred texts Study) study relevant sacred texts that inspire and refine you. Remember,education changes a person’s outlook on life for the good)
  • Ishvara Pranidhana (Living with an awareness of the divine); Be devoted to God of your choice (Ram, Buddha ….)


Patanjali says “The yoga posture is steady and easy” akin to the cosmic serpent resting on the waters of infinity. Although people of the West often consider Yoga Asana Practice (YAP) body fitness promoting exercise regimen, Patanjali and other ancient yogis used YAP to prepare the body for meditation. Long sittings for meditating and contemplating,requirehigh body stamina and distraction free mind. Patanjali said,” masteryour posture by freeing the body and mind from tension and restlessness and meditating on the infinite.”


Prana is the “life force” or energy that exists everywhere and flows through each of us throughbreathing. Pranayamais breath control. Pranayama Pracice (PP) comprises of inhalation, breath retention and exhalation. PP removes mind distraction and purifies it. Thus, concentration and meditation become easier.


This is withdrawal of the senses. Pratyahara occurs during meditation, breathing exercise, or the practice of yoga postures- basically any time when you are directing your attention inward. Concentration is a battle with distracting senses. When you master pratyahara, you are able to focus because, petty things e.g. feet itch, mosquito buzzing etc. don’t distract you from your meditation object.


“Concentration or dharana is focusing the mind on one point or image, and binding thought in one place” Patanjali says. The goal is to still the mind, gently pushing away superfluous thoughts, by fixing your mind on some object such as a candle flame, a flower, or a mantra. In dharana, concentration is effortless. You know the mind is concentrating when there is no sense of time passing.


Uninterrupted meditation on an object is called dhyana; such concentration leads to the state of meditation. The goal of meditation is not unconsciousness or nothingness. It is heightened awareness and oneness with the universe how do you tell the difference between concentration and meditation I hear you ask, if there is awareness of distraction, you are only concentrating and not meditating, the calm achieved in meditation spills over into all aspects of your life.


The ultimate goal of the eight fold path to yoga is Samadhi, or absolute bliss. This is pure contemplation, super-consciousness, in which you and the universe are one. Those who have achieved Samadhi are enlightened...a state of God-Union.

The Eight Limbs work together; the first five steps- yama, niyama,asana, pranayama and pratyahara-are the preliminaries of yoga and build the foundation for spiritual life. They are concerned with the body and the brain.

The last three,Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi would not be possible without the previous steps. They are concerned with reconditioning the mind they help the yogi to attain enlightenment or the full realization of oneness with spirit.

Enlightenment lasts forever. I am sure, teaching these Sutras universally and the students following these in real life would promote peace and make the world a better place to live.

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