While many think of yoga as a good form of exercise, it is also recognized for providing systematic and definite steps to realization of God-union, called the eight limbs of yoga. In the Yoga Sutras, the ancient sage, Patanjali recommends an 8-limbed system referred to as Ashtanga to rid oneself of kleshas (obstacles). These are Patanjali’s thoughts for living a better life through yoga. The Yoga Sutras provide one with clear steps that enable the individual to work on uniting the soul with Spirit in a way that is both beautiful and concise…so much so that generations of scholars have acknowledged the Yoga Sutras as the foremost ancient work on yoga.
That said, you won’t find any yoga posture descriptions in the Yoga Sutra, rather you will find 195 sutras compiled that remind the reader that there is more to yoga than just postures. Yoga has the ability to help you cultivate your body, mind and spiritual awareness.
Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga:
1. Yama (moral conduct): noninjury to others, truthfulness, nonstealing, continence, and noncovetousness
2. Niyama (religious observances): purity of body and mind, contentment in all circumstances, self-discipline, self-study (contemplation), and devotion to God and guru
3. Asana: right posture
4. Pranayama: control of prana, the subtle life currents in the body
5. Pratyahara: interiorization through withdrawal of the senses from external objects
6. Dharana: focused concentration; holding the mind to one thought or object
7. Dhyana: meditation, absorption in the vast perception of God in one of His infinite aspects — Bliss, Peace, Cosmic Light, Cosmic Sound, Love, Wisdom, etc. — all-pervading throughout the whole universe
8. Samadhi: ultimate bliss, superconscious experience of the oneness of the individualized soul with Cosmic Spirit
Samadhi is the ultimate goal of the eightfold path to yoga. This is pure contemplation, superconsciousness, in which you and the universe are one. 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, which would not be possible without the previous steps, are concerned with reconditioning the mind. They help the yogi to attain enlightenment or the full realization of oneness with Spirit.