YOGA SUTRAS describe the path of yoga as a path with 8 stages that are conditioned by one other.
There are many methods specific to each stage of yoga practice and they correspond to the practitioner’s level of consciousness. One cannot jump over one of the stages in order to shorten his journey.
The first 5 stages are considered preparatory stages. Yet they are extremely important and are often ignored by the superficial “fast spiritual food” methods.
PREPARATORY STAGES (1-5)
- Yama – the rules of individual behavior; the control of negative tendencies.
- Niyama – the rules that harmonize the relations between man and all beings; they organizes our inner life.
- Asana – the body positions that place us in resonance with beneficial energies of the Universe.
- Pranayama – the practice of controlled breathing that leads to concentration of ‘prana’; and the conscious directing of this force to all levels of our being.
- Pratyahara – the practice of withdrawal, removal from the external stimuli and sensations perceived by our senses.
ADVANCED STAGES (6-8)
- Dharana – the stage of absolute concentration; the consciousness is only aware of the object under focus and there is no other thought in the mind.
- Dhyana – the stage of true meditation; here contemplation aims at the union of consciousness with the practitioner’s surroundings; the yogi identifies with the object of his meditation in a continuous flow of attention.
- Samadhi – the stage in which all mind fluctuations cease; a state of non-duality, transcendence, peace and fusion with the supreme happiness and blessedness of God. This is the ultimate goal of all spiritual exercises, of all religious systems and of all spiritual paths.
- Note that meditation (Dhyana) is the result that appears after completing the first six stages of this system.
- These stages are not related to any spiritual doctrine. They are actually related to the structure of a human being. All systems that in a way or another are leading a human being on the path of evolution will accomplish these stages (even if they have different names).