Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras describes the Ashtanga Yoga or the eightfold path of yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Its eight steps create an orderly process of self- transformation beginning on the level of the physical body, and eventually involving the subtler levels of life. The yoga of Patanjali relates to the individual efforts, or purusharthas, that each person has to perform in order to change and understand their own personality and mentality.
Pantajali has thoughtfully outlined a progressive process for the Science of living a yogic lifestyle. The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for one’s yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of this path one is directed to an elevated state. Each limb is part of a holistic process which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connection to the Divine. Because we are all unique individual, a person can emphasize on one branch and then move on to another as they develop an in-depth understanding of each limb.
When you practise the Yamas and Niyamas, you confront your own nature, your own limitations and negativities and try to understand and channel them. Upon practicing Asana and Pranayama, you become aware of the limitations of your body. You try to improve the condition of the body, attain health, flexibility, energization of pranamaya kosha and activation of the pranas.
When you practise Pratyahara and Dharana, you are dealing with your own mind, trying to channel and harness the forces of the thoughts, aspirations, distractions, all the different vrittis of the mind. Finally, when Dhyana and Samadhi are practiced, you are experiencing unity within yourself. So Patanjali’s yoga relates to the harmonization and development of the individual.
Asana is the practice of physical postures. It is the most commonly known aspect of yoga for those unfamiliar with the other seven limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. The practice of moving the body into postures has widespread benefits; of these the most underlying are improved health, strength, balance and flexibility.
Dharana means “immovable concentration of the mind”. The essential idea is to hold the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. Here one is concentrated wholly on a single point or on a task in which he is completely engrossed. The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption.