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Ashtanga Yoga

 

General Information

Ashtanga Yoga is a scheme of advancement along the spiritual Path suggested in distant past by Indian rishi Patanjali. This term can be translated as “eight-steps Path to the final Goal”.

Patanjali distinguished the following major steps of this ascent: yamaniyamaasanapranayamapratyaharadharanadhyanasamadhi. However, since the first two of the above-mentioned steps are very similar and are supposed to be practiced simultaneously, it makes sense to regard them as one and view this system as a seven-step “octave”. Let us look at these steps.
 

Yama and Niyama

These terms are translated as effort and relaxation or exertion and rest. This stage consists in mastering fundamental ethical and psycho-hygienic rules of a spiritual seeker’s life.

The first rule is called ahimsa — non-harming. It means trying not to injure, as far as possible, any living being in deeds, words, thoughts, or emotions.

This also includes the principles of ethically correct nutrition and, which is no less important, getting rid of coarse emotions, which are the result of ill thoughts and often lead to rude words and actions.

One can make ethical mistakes, including crimes, as a result of either ignorance, lack of understanding of the universal order and of one’s own place and role in it, or out of indulging in the emotions of spite, condemnation, resentment, anxiety, fear, etc., which are vicious manifestations of the lower self.

Sathya (truthfulness) is the second rule of yama. Jesus Christ said about this concisely: “…Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’” (Matt 5:33-37). One can deserve respect from people and from God only by behaving in this way.

Yet, there are cases where one cannot tell the truth, because this can harm someone. In such instances, it is better to evade answering the question…

By lying one becomes a sinner before God and a captive to one’s own lies before people, since he or she will have to apprehend a disclosure and to live in anxiety, instead of the state of steadfast pure peace.

The third rule is asteya — non-covetousness, renunciation of the desire to possess something that belongs to someone else. One should totally concentrate on the cognition of God. Craving for material objects, especially those belonging to others, is an utter perversion of the true orientation of consciousness, which at the same time leads to harming other people.

The fourth rule is aparigraha — limiting one’s possessions to necessary things. Unnecessary things only distract our attention from the essential: from being focused on attaining the state of Mergence with the Creator.

Brahmacharya — the fifth rule — literally means “walking the path of Brahman (the Holy Spirit)”. This implies renunciation of one’s worldly desires (except for attending to elementary needs of the body) and redirection of one’s attention towards God, searching for Him first with the mind and then — with the developed consciousness.

This rule implies sincere renunciation of seeking worldly fame and honors, accumulating the things that are unnecessary in the world of Brahman, and embellishment of the body.

Some people interpret the Brahmacharya rule only as celibacy (sexual abstinence). But this is too narrow of an interpretation. Besides this, sexual continence is even unnecessary provided spiritual attitude toward sex. On the contrary, celibacy can lead to prostatitis in men, energetic “fading” of women and result in consciousness growing “callous” — in both. Such continence really does not contribute to progress on the spiritual Path. What is important is not abstaining from sex, but freeing oneself from being obsessed with it and from sexual contacts with inadequate partners.

The sixth rule is saucha — maintaining purity of the body. The main thing here is to wash the whole body with warm or hot water and with soap — daily, if possible. This cleans one’s skin from deposits of perspiration salts, which upset the normal functioning of the whole organism.

Saucha also implies brushing the teeth and so on.

There are also special therapeutic saucha techniques, such as enema or an abstersion of the nose and of the nasopharynx by drawing in salted water. There is no reason for using them regularly, though.

It is also not advisable for all people to practice cold-water showers. This is beneficial as a tempering or a toning up procedure. But for those who need to establish themselves in peace and harmony it could do harm.

The seventh rule is mitahara — pure nutrition, i.e. the one which excludes products made of bodies of killed animals. Also, one should take food in an emotionally favorable environment. In no circumstances should one eat on the background of conflict conversations or bitter arguments, as well as in presence of malicious or irritated people. One may perform a meditation before taking a meal in order to harmonize the inner state.

The eighth rule — santosha — consists in the constant maintaining of a positive emotional attitude. If one feels presence of the Lord and devote the life to Him totally, if one does not act out of self-interest, if one knows that He is constantly watching all, leading all, teaching all, that He creates difficulties so that one could learn and then He Himself helps one to find solutions to the problems — why would one not live in the state of permanent joy?

The ninth rule is svadhyana — philosophical discussions, conversations, and readings that make for a thorough comprehension of the meaning of our lives and of the Path to Perfection.

“Fix your mind on Me…” — this is how Avatar Krishna defined in the Bhagavad Gita the first steps that man should take on the Path to God.

The tenth rule — tapas — implies any kinds of self-restraint and self-constraint for the sake of overcoming one’s own vices. Among other things, tapas teaches us spiritual discipline as well as to follow the principle “it must be done!” as opposed to the principle “I do only that what I want!”

The eleventh rule is Ishvarapranidhana. This implies feeling that everything existing is pervaded with the Consciousness of the Creator (Ishvara), feeling His constant presence everywhere, seeing Him as a Teacher and Witness of everything that I do and that happens to me.

There are also four very important rules:

kshama — tolerance to those who think differently;

daya — mercy, kindness;

arjava — simplicity, lack of arrogance;

hri — lowliness of mind, and also a lack of: self-admiration, self-pride because of one’s actual achievements, and conceit — self-praise on account of one’s imaginary virtues.
 

Asana

In this context, the word asana means a posture, a steady position of the body. There are special methods of working with the body in order to prepare it for further stages of the spiritual work. Systems of asanas and other exercises of this stage of work are collectively called hatha yoga. They also help one acquire the skills of initial concentration and provide the entry-level development of the energetic structures of the organism.

One should start doing asanas only after studying and accepting the principles of the previous stage. Practicing hatha yoga without switching to cruelty-free diet leads to coarsening of one’s energy and to growth of coarse power, and this in turn leads one astray from the true Path.

The best time for doing asanas is early morning — approximately 4-5 a.m.

Each session has to be followed by shavasana — a deep relaxation of the body and mind while lying on the back for about 20 minutes. If one does not do this, health disorders may occur, such as deterioration of the eyesight, anxiety, insomnia, etc.
 

Pranayama

Working with energies within the body and within the energy cocoon that surrounds the body is the task of raja yoga. And the first stage of raja yoga is pranayama, which is translated as working with energy.

Sometimes this term is incorrectly interpreted as breathing exercises. This is an atheistic error. In Reality, it is the energy of consciousness that is moved during pranayamas, but one may perform this — for convenience — keeping time with the breath.

The part of the consciousness that works during pranayamas should transform into white flowing light. With this light one washes away all bio-energetic contaminations located in the body; it results in general improvement of the health and elimination of various diseases. Also the consciousness itself turns into a mobile and active power.
 

Pratyahara

The word pratyahara means “removal of the indriyas from material objects”. Pratyahara is the stage at which the aspirant learns to control the “tentacles” of the consciousness that are called indriyas in Sanskrit. This allows achieving the ability to see in subtle and subtlest layers of multidimensional space, as well as to exit from the material body into these layers and settle in them, accustoming oneself to their subtlety, tenderness, and purity.
 

Dharana

Dharana means maintaining proper concentration. Proper concentration means keeping one’s indriyas on God. In other words, this is a manifestation of man’s aspiration toward God, toward Merging with Him.

But God in the aspect of the Creator or Holy Spirit is inaccessible for the direct perception at this stage of apprenticeship.

Our loving thirst for God can be partially quenched by working with an Image of a specific Divine Teacher — the One Whose form in His last incarnation is familiar to the practitioner.

Holding the face of a Divine Teacher in the anahata against the background of the emotion of the most intense love helps to enter a state when it is not I who look at the world from the anahata but Him. In this case, the Yidam (this is what this Image is called) “became alive”, and the practioner is partially merged with Him.

On principally higher stages of spiritual ascent, Yidam is represented by a Mahadouble of a Divine Teacher (a Representative of the Creator).
 

Dhyana

Dhyana is the stage of meditative training that leads one to Samadhi.

Meditation is work of consciousness aimed at the development of consciousness on the path to the Perfection and to the Mergence with the Creator. Meditation is practiced at three stages of the Patanjali’s scheme.

At the dharana stage, students among other things, learn how to expand the consciousness in the subtlest and the most beautiful that exists in the world of matter. By means of such attunement, they establish themselves in the sattva guna. (And through working with Yidam they may immediately come in contact with the Fiery manifestation of the Divine Consciousness and experience Samadhi).

At the dhyana stage, students work on increasing the “mass” of consciousness and obtaining power in subtlety.

At the next stage, their efforts are focused on interaction of the consciousness with the Consciousness of Universal God and on merging with Him.

At the dhyana stage, the meditative work is especially effective if it is performed on special places of power — areas on the Earth’s surface that have a special energetic impact on human beings. Among the variety of them only those should be chosen that make for expanding of the consciousness in the subtlest eons. A correctly selected sequence of such places ensures that the most complex tasks of correct crystallization (i.e. quantitative growth) of consciousness can be solved easily and with little effort.

For the same purpose, one can meditate during athletic exercises, as well as practice winter swimming and meditative running.

The structure of the human organism responsible for meditation is the lower bubble of perception, the principal part of which is anahata chakra, supplied with energy by the lower dantian (a complex of the three lower chakras). This is why success of the work at this stage depends on the level of purity and development of the entire system of seven chakras, which is combined into one complex by the meridians.
 

Samadhi

This stage includes a range of highest spiritual achievements — from the first Samadhis to Merging with the Primordial Consciousness in the Abode of the Creator.

The consciousness of the spiritual seeker, prepared at the previous stages, becomes capable of getting in contact with the Consciousness of God in the highest eons. These first contacts give one a vivid novelty of bliss, which is what the term Samadhi denotes.
 

See also:

Yoga

Chakras

Meditation

Yidam

Indriyas

Shavasana

 

Articles of encyclopedia

Agni Yoga

Ahimsa

Arrogance

Asana

Assemblage Point

Ashtanga Yoga

Atman

Avatar


Babaji

Bhagavad Gita

Bhakti Yoga

Brahman

Bubbles of Perception

Buddhi

Buddhi Yoga


Chakras

Christ

Clairvoyance

Cocoon

Compassion

Consciousness

Сreator


Dantyans

Daya

Dharana

Dhyana


Emotions

Eon

Ethics


Gautama Buddha

God

Gunas


Haich, Elisabeth

Hara

Hatha Yoga

Hermes Trismegistus

Hesychasm

Holy Spirit


Indriyas

Ishvara


Jesus Christ

Jiva

Juan Matus


Karma

Karma Yoga

Killing-Free Nutrition

Krishna

Kriya Yoga

Kundalini


Lada

Latihan

Laya Yoga

Loka


Mahadouble

Mahatma

Man

Manas

Maya

Meaning of Life

Meditation

Meditative Running

Meridians

Messiah

Monasticism

Multidimensional Space


Nagual

“NAM-Meditation”

Nirodhi

Nirvana


Paramatman

Patanjali’s Scheme

Philokalia

Places of Power

Prakriti

Pranayama

Pratyahara

Pride

Psychic Self-Regulation

Purusha

Pythagoras


Raja Yoga


Samadhi

Sathya

Sathya Sai Baba

Sattva

Selfhood

Shambala

Shavasana

Soul

Spiritual Heart

Sunna

Sufi Practices

Sufism

Surya

Svara

Svarog


Tao

Tao Te Ching

Te

Thoth-the-Atlantean

Tonal and Nagual

Total Reciprocity

Turiya


Vainglory

Varnas

Vegetarianism


Winter Swimming


Yama and Niyama

Yidam

Yoga