The practice of Yoga Asana is good for our health, but this is only one aspect of the eight limbs of Yoga. Yoga is the union of what 3 things? Do you know the answer?
Spiritual Origins of Yoga
The word ‘Yoga’ is Sanskrit from the root ‘Yuj’, which means ‘to join or ‘to yoke or ‘to unite’. Today, Yoga Asana are a universally accepted form of exercise, but it is one one of the eight components that make up this system.
Patanjali is the historical authority on Yoga. He was born in India in 200 BCE. The elements of Yoga existed long before Patanjali put his system together.
The Patanjali put the Sutras, or formulas from early Vedic tradition, into a system he called the tree of knowledge with eight limbs. In his work, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, He goes on to describe the potential outcomes of using these Sutras.
Unfortunately, his text does not provide the details about how to apply these formulas, is this formation left out on purpose to retain the secrets of the formulas? Who knows. Because of this gap, there are several different interpretations of how to use his sutras.
Yoga is the Union of What 3 things?
The spiritual origins of Yoga, tell us we can only achieve fulfillment when there is harmony of body, mind, and soul. There isn’t another way. When everything is in balance, the Ego does not overpower the Observer. The mind and Ego become the tools of consciousness rather than the rulers of perception. We can live life fully present.
The practice of Yoga Asana has become a popular form of exercise, but the focus on the postures misconstrues their true purpose. The Asana are one of the eight parts of a holistic approach to integration.
To be sure, there are health benefits for this aspect of Yoga. The physical movements of Yoga Asana are just one of the eight branches of Yoga. So, the physical Asana can be gentle preparatory meditation exercises or vigorous and challenging poses that mold the body and soul together.
“Yoga means union. Yoga is the union of what 3 things? It is the union of body, mind, and spirit. Today, people use the term Yoga interchangeably with other forms of physical exercise. Yoga has become something you add to your exercise routine, along with resistance or cardio training. It is much more than exercise, it is a practice to integrate and harmonize all aspects of our Being.
There is nothing wrong with exercise. We need it to maintain a healthy body, but Yoga is more than exercise, it is a preparatory element of spiritual practice. Turning Yoga into physical exercise or a form of gymnastics misses the point instead of promoting union, you are creating division.
When taken out of context, you reinforce the illusion between the Observer and the instrument of observation. The goal of the eight limbs of Yoga is to unify the mind, body, and spirit.” — Guru Tua
Achieving Harmony of Body, Mind, and Soul
Below are the key terms to help you understand how this system fits together in one holistic platform of development:
- Yama = external discipline
- Niyama = internal discipline
- Âsana = posture
- Prâñâyâma = breath regulation
- Pratyâhâra = withdrawal of the senses
- Dhârañâ = concentration
- Dhyana = meditative absorption
- Samâdhayaï = oneness, integration
The order above is consistent with their presentation in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, but we recommend you start with the last one, Samadhi. It will help you put things in a proper perspective. The transcendent is the ultimate unifying field of awareness. This aspect of Yoga is the union of what completes us. Want to be complete? Learn to meditate!
Samādhi is the heart or trunk of the eight limbs of Yoga. One can reach this unique partition of awareness using a meditative process. This partition of awareness is known by several names, including pure consciousness, bliss consciousness, or the 4th state.
We reach this state using a form of meditation that uses a mantra. The mantra enables one to transcend the active mind. We recommend a method called Japa. Japa is the generic name for the method, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi calls Transcendental Meditation (TM) (1). He coined the terms transcendental mediation and bliss consciousness.
The Eight Limbs of the Tree of Yoga
These eight limbs are part of a whole; each one of the elements is a part of a holistic approach. Remember, Yoga is the union of what 3 things? It is the union of soul with body and mind. You must include your soul in your practice in order to grow and reach your full potential. Don’t make up rules that confine your practice, and don’t forget to take time to normalize and rest. Time off can be just what you need to reach the next level. Learn to listen to your soul, mind, and body.
Yama refers to external behavior, these are things you should not do:
- Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): Nonviolence
- Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, and authenticity
- Asteya (अस्तेय): Not stealing, controlling envy
- Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): marital fidelity or preoccupation with instinctual passions
- Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice, non-possessiveness.
Niyama refers to five internal ethical guideline that must be exercised daily.
- Self-Purification (Shaucha)
- Contentment and Self-Acceptance (Santosha)
- Self-Discipline (Tapas)
- The Study of Self (Svadhyaya)
- Self-Surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana)
Purification means doing the things to optimize health and durability. It deals with eating, exercising, and taking care of your mental wellbeing.
A healthy mindset includes practicing gratefulness, contentment, self-acceptance and thankfulness.
Self-discipline is the art of living with the intention and being fully present.
Self-study is involves exploring your one divinity, and here, one must be careful not to get bogged down in religious mythology and superstition. It’s prudent to use the popular stories of enlightened beings as metaphors and analogies. Create a path of your own. Read the stories of all the great sages, from Buddha to Jesus; they did it by walking alone, walking their own paths in the wilderness.
Self-Surrender is the process of de-cluttering. It and minimizing our attachments in order to find the value in the simple things in life.
There are several tools to help you explore your inner world, including self-observation, emotional reflection, and eliminating boundaries. Learning to accept yourself as you are is self-surrender. When we accept who we are, it gives us the perspective to change and overcome roadblocks in our development. It is the path of increasing awareness and consciousness, which is the essence of spiritual exploration.
Yama and Niyama are the components of the Yoga Sutras which provides preparatory steps that enable you to apply the Sutras.
It is the term most people associate with physical yoga postures. Today, many mistranslate two key terms used by Patanjali, one of these is the word Asana. Patanjali uses Asana to describe “presence.” The second term often mistranslated is the word “seat.” Here, the word seat refers not to physically sitting but to “being established.” So, a seated asana means to be established in presence, or to be present and grounded.
The creation of modern yoga postures didn’t occur until much later. So, the practice of Yoga Asana is the practice of being present. Being present is an essential element in all forms of seated and moving meditation. It’s also more akin to the practice of Kundalini Yoga. Here, one activates a type of energy, Chi or Ki, to feel “presence” flowing up through us.
This practice refers to breathing exercises which includes techniques to align, attune, and sometimes engage in semi-hypnotic altered states of consciousness. Altering, expanding, and reaching higher states is one of the primary purposes of practicing Yoga Sutras. Most people are familiar with changing waking consciousness via chemical stimuli like alcohol. Here, one learns to alter awareness using the breath.
The literal translation of this is “withdrawal of the senses.” But it’s much more than that. It involves the progressive use of Mantra and Sutra. Withdrawing from the senses is the first part.
Withdrawing from the senses refers to using a Mantra to reach the transcendent state. Then, while in this silent state, one introduces the proper Sutra. The use of the appropriate sutra will return an immediate experiential result. This practice is known as Siddhis.
Patanjali refers to the Siddhis as extraordinary powers. There are many schools of thought, as there are interpretations of these formulas. Perhaps it’s the controversy that kindles so much interest. There is no doubt about this aspect of Patanjali’s work’s historical and spiritual significance.
This involves engaging the mind’s analytical powers. It is learning how to use reason and common sense. Thinking without limits is the ideal of the freethinker. It involves conscious mental techniques for expanding awareness. It reinforces internal and external observational skills, and it shapes thinking through common sense and reason. So, those who prefer the analytical approach find this one appealing.
Dhyana is a combination of Dharana, Pratyahara, and Samādhi. It’s the fusion of the analytical mind and our transcendent awareness. It melds the 4th state with the waking state, resulting in a separate partition of consciousness known as Witnessing. Wow!
One achieves this state through regular Japa or TM meditation. The state of bliss naturally attracts the mind’s awareness. It is a natural progression to bring this quality into the waking state. The resulting experience is “witnessing.”
In this state of consciousness, there is an expansion of the mind’s ability to perceive two realities simultaneously. You have a conscious awareness of the body while observing from a different point outside the body.
Samadhi is the first building block of consciousness exploration. It’s the 4th state of consciousness. It is the first major partition of awareness beyond the default settings of waking, sleeping, and dreaming. Some call it pure consciousness or bliss consciousness.
This partition of awareness remains hidden to the untrained mind. We can reach it using the proper meditation technique. Japa meditation is a proven method which opens awareness to the transcendent. Japa is the generic name. The more popular name is Transcendental Meditation or TM.
Although it is the last of the eight limbs of Yoga, it is the foundation for all the other Sutras. Samadhi is the primary tool for integrating our minds, bodies, and souls. The 4th state is the springboard for reaching higher states of consciousness. Are you ready to dive in?
Yoga is the Union of What Your Soul Needs Most
The spiritual origins of Yoga tell us integration is the key. It is a powerful way to achieve harmony of body, mind, and soul. Start your journey today.
If you think of Yoga only as a form of exercise, you are missing out on many of the benefits. Expand your practice to include all the Yoga elements, and it will transform your routine into spiritual practice. Find a Yoga practice that’s right for you. You’ll be glad you did.
The eight elements of Yoga are one method or path of consciousness development. There are several other paths. Learn more about the Rainbow of Consciousness that is available. There are other altered states and higher states of awareness that await your exploration.
(1) Transcendental Meditation: https://www.tm.org/