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
steps of this ascent: yama — niyama —
asana — pranayama — pratyahara
— dharana — dhyana — samadhi.
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.
These terms are translated as
effort and relaxation or exertion and
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
— kshama — tolerance to those who
— daya — mercy, kindness;
— arjava — simplicity, lack of
— 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.
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
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.
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
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
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 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 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
guna. (And through working with Yidam they may
immediately come in contact with the Fiery
manifestation of the Divine Consciousness and
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
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
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.
This stage includes a range of
highest spiritual achievements — from the first
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.