The Yoga Tutor

Samyama Yoga - The Higher Stages

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 501 ]

Together, the three higher stages of Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga (dharana, dhyana and samadhi) are referred to as samyama yoga.

~ Yoga Sutras, Vibhuti Pada (Sutra 4)
Translation - The three (dharana, dhyana and samadhi) taken together constitute samyama.

As we embark further into these so-called 'higher elements' of yoga, we will find that theoretical postulations and intellectual study becomes less and less useful. The written word, dialogue and discourse, diagrams and illustrations, and all forms of material tools of learning that play variously useful roles in the preliminary stages of the study of the science of yoga, often do not lend much to the understanding of the 'higher practices', which are essentially entirely experiential in nature.

In order to find success at the higher stages of practice in yoga, the sadhak must have previously crafted a firm foundation in the preliminary practices, all those topics which we have traversed up until this point. This includes the development of a strong discipline, purification of body and of mind, correct understanding of basic yogic principles, development of the virtues of all the yamas, extensive svadhyaya and exploration of the self and the inner workings of one's own mind and mental conditionings, and an unrelenting devotion to the highest Cosmic Self.

These things are no small accomplishments. It can take years, if not lifetimes of dedication to the study and practice of yoga for one to be able to recognize these achievements along the evolutionary path.

When I speak of yoga as a step by step process, which I have done on several occasions, this refers more accurately to the fact that the concepts and practices of the vast science of yoga must be presented to the student in a systematic way, where certain techniques must be mastered before others can be attempted with any hope of success; certain concepts and principles must be known before others can be understood; and certain preparations of body and mind achieved in order to successfully experience the higher and higher aspects of yoga.

Yet the yogic path is not, in a literal sense, a linear, step by step process -- where one step is completed before moving onto the next, etc. The term ashtanga yoga itself suggests that these are limbs (angas) -- constituent parts of a whole -- and though there is a definite sequential relationship between them, Patanjali himself doesn't present yoga as a literal step by step process...


NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

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... It is indeed a masterful work."


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