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
‘Yoga’ is Sanskrit from ‘Yuj’, which means ‘to join or ‘to yoke or ‘to unite’. Today, the movements of 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. However, the elements of Yoga existed long before Patanjali put them together in his famous system. His genius was to combine the knowledge from Vedic tradition into a system he called the tree of knowledge. In his work, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, he describes the potential outcomes of using the eight limbs of Yoga.
Unfortunately, his work does not provide the details about how to apply these formulas or reach the goals he says are possible. Some wonder if this formation left out on purpose to retain the secrets of the system. Who knows? Because of this gap, there are several 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 is a popular, but the focus on the postures misconstrues their true purpose. Yoga Asana is one of the eight parts of a holistic approach to integration.
There is no doubt. The practice of Yoga Asana has health benefits. The postures and movements combination of flexibility, strength, and stamina. These postures range from gentle to vigorous and challenging poses. But when we take them out of context we miss the true benefit of their link to the internal practice.
“Yoga is the union of what 3 things? Yoga means union. The goal of Yoga is the integration and harmonization of body, mind, and spirit. Today, the term Yoga is used interchangeably with other forms of physical exercise, making it something you add to your exercise routine, along with resistance or cardio training. It is much more than exercise, it is a practice to harmonize and integrate all aspects of our Being.
There is nothing wrong with exercise, the fact is we need a proper exercise to maintain a healthy body and mind. But Yoga is more than exercise, it is a preparatory element of spiritual practice. If you treat Yoga like exercise or a form of gymnastics, you miss the real goal of the system, and 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
- 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. Samadhi is the transcendent, 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, and you can reach this unique partition of awareness using the right meditative process. This partition of awareness is known by several names, including pure consciousness, bliss consciousness, or the 4th state.
We can reach this state with a form of meditation, which uses a mantra to transcend the active mind. We recommend a meditation method called Japa, which is the generic name for the process, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi calls Transcendental Meditation (TM) (1). He coined the terms transcendental mediation and bliss consciousness to describe the transcendent state of awareness.
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 ethical thinking and actions. You should be truthful and authentic, but refrain from becoming violent even when you are angry. You should be loyal and honor commitments but also not be possessive and allow those you love to have autonomy.
- 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 key internal practices. These are the things you should do every day in order to cultivate a healthy mindset and balance between ego and observer.
- Self-Purification (Shaucha)
- Contentment and Self-Acceptance (Santosha)
- Self-Discipline (Tapas)
- The Study of Self (Svadhyaya)
- Self-Surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana)
To purify means to do those things which optimize health and durability. It deals with eating, exercising, and taking care of your mental wellbeing. Someone with a healthy mindset reflects the virtues of the spirit in their lives. Self-discipline is living with positive intent and to 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 the mind. It means minimizing our attachments in order to find the value in the simple things in life.
There are several tools to help you explore self. There are methods to enhance self-observation and expand awareness. Accepting yourself as you embody the concept of surrender. When we surrender, we can change and overcome roadblocks to our development. This is the path we call spiritual exploration.
Yama and Niyama are the components of the Yoga Sutras which provide 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.
Pranayama includes all forms of breathing exercises. These techniques have a range of effects on the body and our consciousness.
On one side of the continuum are methods which produce subtle effects. On the other side of the continuum, you find powerful techniques which create altered, hypnotic and higher states of awareness. 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. Using the 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 the postures are only one aspect of Yoga. The postures are one of the eight limbs of Yoga which help us achieve harmony of body, mind, and soul. Start your journey today.
If you think of Yoga only as 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/