Disciple: What are the limbs of yoga?
Yama, niyama, asana, ,pranayama, pratyahara, dharana,
dhyana, and samadhi. Of these:
1. Yama: this stands for the cultivation of such
principles of good conduct as non-violence (ahimsa),
truth (satya), non-stealing (asteya),
celibacy (brahmacharya), and non-possession (apari-graha).
2. Niyama: this stands for the observance of
such rules of good conduct as purity (saucha),
contentment (santosha), austerity (tapas),
study of the sacred texts (svadhyaya), and devotion
to God (Isvara-pranidhana).*
3. Asana: Of the different postures, eighty-four
are the main ones. Of these, again, four, viz., simha,
bhadra, padma, and siddha** are said to be
excellent. Of these too, it is only siddha that
is the most excellent. Thus the yoga texts declare.
4. Pranayama: According to the measures prescribed
in the sacred texts, exhaling the vital air is rechaka,
inhaling is puraka, and retaining it in the heart
is kumbhaka. As regards 'measure,' some texts
say that rechaka and puraka should be
equal in measure, and kumbhaka twice that measure,
while other texts say that if rechaka is one
measure, puraka should be of two measures, and
kumbhaka of four. By 'measure' what is meant
is the time that would be taken for the utterance of
the Gayatrimantra once. Thus pranayama
consisting of rechaka, puraka, and kumbhaka
should be practised daily according to ability, slowly
and gradually. Then, there would arise for the mind
a desire to rest in happiness without moving. After
this, one should practise pratyahara.
5. Pratyahara: This is regulating the mind by
preventing it from flowing towards the external names
and forms. The mind, which had been till then distracted,
now becomes controlled. The aids in this respect are
(1) meditation on the pranava, (2) fixing the
attention betwixt the eyebrows, (3) looking at the tip
of the nose, and (4) reflection on the nada.
The mind that has thus become one-pointed will be fit
to stay in one place. After this, dharana should
6. Dharana: This is fixing the mind in a locus
which is fit for meditation. The loci that are eminently
fit for meditation are the heart and Brahma-randhra
(aperture in the crown of the head). One should think
that in the middle of the eight-petalled lotus*** that
is at this place there shines, like a flame, the Deity
which is the Self, i.e. Brahman, and fix the mind therein.
After this, one should meditate.
7. Dhyana: This is meditation, through the 'I
am He' thought, that one is not different from the nature
of the aforesaid flame. Even, thus, if one makes the
enquiry 'Who am I?', then, as the Scripture declares,
"The Brahman which is everywhere shines in the heart
as the Self that is the witness of the intellect,"
one would realize that is the Divine Self that shines
in the heart as 'I-I'. This mode of reflection is the
8. Samadhi: As a result of the fruition of the
aforesaid meditation, the mind gets resolved in the
object of meditation without harbouring the ideas 'I
am such and such; I am doing this and this'. This subtle
state in which even the thought 'I-I' disappears is
samadhi. If one practises this every day, seeing
to it that sleep does not supervene, God will soon confer
on one the supreme state of quiescence of mind.
aim of yama and niyama is the attainment of all good
paths open to those eligible for moksha. For more details
see works like the Yoga-sutra, Hathayoga-dipika.
**Siddhasana: Left heel should be placed over the genital
organ and over that, the right heel. Fixing one's gaze
between the eyebrows one's body should be motionless
and erect like a stick.
***Although it is true that the lotus in the crown of
the head is said to have a thousand petals, it also
may be described as having eight petals because each
of these eight consists of 125 sub-petals.
Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, India.