Yoga is both inner and outer work.
Practicing Yamas teaches us to see, and honor, our connection with, and to, all of existence. Niyamas teach us how to be responsible for caring for our individual expression in the world. Asanas teach us how to care for, heal, and preserve our physical vessel. Pranayamas teach us how to maximize and channel our precious life force energy. Pratyaharas teach us how to come into greater control of our mind by purifying our senses from attachment to both mental and physical form. Practicing Dharanas teaches us how to focus our powers of concentration, thus strengthening our ability to understand and properly apply knowledge. Dhyanas teach us how to deepen our connection to our truth through meditation and direct experience. And all limbs, mastered one after the other, and simultaneously, are intended to get us to Samadhi, which gifts us with the knowledge of, and connection to, our true self, nature, and source.
In all eight limbs of Yoga, we learn the true meaning of mind over matter. We see how controlling one’s senses and desires is only a result of gaining control of the mind, as is controlling one’s breath, releasing tension from one’s body, accomplishing one’s goals, building effective relationships, and truly coming to know oneself.
Through this process of introspection, and the applied force of intention and practice, we come to learn about our innate potential and how to effectively guide and channel it in the world. We learn to understand that all things are connected and see how they are connected and can then work our way back into the full presence of who we truly are by starting with understanding the state of our physical form.
In order to effectively do this, we must move from contemplating the very tangible to the most subtle aspects of ourselves (since Yoga is experiential and requires that we study deeply only one thing: ourselves). In this way, when we practice Samadhi, after preparing ourselves to do so through the limbs practiced before it, we work from the known to the unknown and eventually to the ever-present truth of who we are as individuals while simultaneously finding our connection to all things in the process.
By contemplating form, then concept, then state of being, then presence, we come to know all that there is to be known in our lifetime and see/understand how we fit beautifully into it. And, when we fully know ourselves through this practice of Yoga, we not only bring freedom and understanding to our personal being, but we also bring liberation, comfort, and knowledge to others through our work and presence as well.