A Summary | Inspired By The Raja (Royal)/Patanjali Ashtanga Eight-Limbed Path

There are many ways to define Yoga by modern standards.

In essence, however, Yoga is a lifestyle choice marked by striving to be the best human being that one is capable of being in this lifetime.

The aim of the lifestyle/practice is to move from simply existing as a basic conditioned animal in the world, to truly living as an enlightened and liberated human being while embodied here on Earth. And, there are many routes for achieving this goal. The most clearly laid out pathway, however, is called the Yogic Eightfold (or Eight Limbed) Path as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

In his/her lifetime, a person can strive to perfect one, or several, of the different areas that are possible in their overall self-development as laid out by the Eight-Limbed Path, but it is only when all eight possible areas of development are perfected, according to Raja (or Royal) Yoga, that one truly graduates to reach their highest potential.

So, What, According To These Eight Areas On The Eightfold Path, is “Yoga?”

  1. Yoga Is Yamas (Restraints/Self-Control): This is the practice of being a morally/ethically sound individual who has evolved beyond his/her animal nature to be non-violent, truthful, self-controlled, non-stealing, non-greedy/non-attached to things, people, places, or to his or her own ego.
  2. Yoga Is Niyamas (Duties): This is the practice of having habits that include self-purification (which goes beyond cleanliness of the body and the mind to mean not being contaminated by false senses of self/ego and remaining connected with the ultimate Truth of the Self and our collective oneness), contentment, self-discipline, self-study/study of spiritual books, and devotion to a higher purpose/practice.
  3. Yoga Is Asanas (Posture/Developed Through Poses): This is the practice of maintaining good physical and optimal postural health through proper self-care, physical activity, and stretching (so that you can eventually sit comfortably in meditation).
  4. Yoga Is Pranayamas (Breath/Life-Force Energy Control): This is the practice of optimal, proper, and “elevated” breathing, and energy expansion/control, for the maintenance of a healthy body-mind (and awareness) through the effective flow of one’s life-force energy.
  5. Yoga is Pratyahara (Withdrawal Of The Senses): This is the practice of being in full control of all of one’s five senses, desires, etc, and learning to withdraw ones attention from the outside world to focus inward.
  6. Yoga is Dharana (Single-Pointed Focus/Concentration): This is the practice of cultivating concentration (in all senses of the word) which includes developing a focused mind and being.
  7. Yoga is Dhyana (Meditation): This is the practice of immersive contemplation (marked by deep concentration on spiritual [meaning beyond the ego-body-mind] things). Meditation is using your completely concentrated/focused mind to create a clear mind so that higher states of consciousness (that lead to a clear experience of being) can be experienced.
  8. Yoga is Samadhi (Total Absorption/Total Self-Collectedness/Pure Experience Of Being): This is, through being devoted/committed to connecting with one’s Divine aspects/expressions, and getting the full body-mind-ego under control and setting it aside, obtaining a state of complete absorption on the object/subject of one’s focus. This is the destination of the Eight-Limbed Path, marked by the beauty of becoming prepared to transcend Earthly states of consciousness to obtain union with one’s Divine aspect/expression/True Self, and to obtain spiritual/inner liberation from the perpetual cycle of Karma and suffering in the world.

The Eight-Limbed Path teaches us that all of these aims are individually possible in one lifetime and within one person.

It is only when one manages to have all of the limbs on the path mastered (and not just one or a few), however, by remaining mindful and practicing consistently each day, that he/she will then obtain the ultimate goal of being a fully Self-Realized/liberation human being who has achieved their highest potential in their lifetime.

This Self-Realization/liberation is the aim of Yoga (a word that means Union). No matter what your path may look like, the aim of Yoga/Union is always the same.

Thank you for reading.

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