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Description of Yoga

Here are some quotations from Light on Yoga that describe what yoga is all about. Note that although these quotations make sense out of context, there is a lot of context that I am leaving out.

Yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. It was collated, co-ordinated, and systematised by Patañjali in his classical work, the Yoga Sutras, which consists of 185 terse aphorisms.


The right means are just as important as the end in view. Patañjali enumerates these means as the eight limbs or stages of Yoga for the quest of the soul. They are:

1. Yama (universal moral commandments); 2. Niyama (self purification by discipline); 3. Asana (posture); 4. Pranayama (rhythmic control of the breath); 5. Pratyahara (withdrawal and emancipation of the mind from the domination of the senses and exterior objects); 6. Dharana (concentration); 7. Dhyana (meditation) and 8. Samadhi (a state of super-consciousness brought about by profound meditation, in which the individual aspirant (sadhaka) becomes one with the object of his meditation—Paramatma or the Universal Spirit).

Note that the third point, the practice of asanas, is the source of the popular image of yoga.

The eight limbs of Yoga are described in the second chapter. The first of these is yama (ethical disciplines)—the great commandments transcending creed, country, age, and time. They are: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (continence) and aparigraha (non-coveting).


Niyama are the rules of conduct that apply to individual discipline, while yama are universal in their application. The five niyama listed by Patañjali are: saucha (purity), santosa (contentment), tapas (ardour or austerity), svadhyaya (study of the Self) and Isvara pranidhana (dedication to the Lord).


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@ March (2000)