What is Yoga?

Yoga means Yoking to join, ‘unity’ or ‘oneness ‘and is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to join. The union is between the individual consciousness and the universal consciousness. When the mind is still the individual can experience self that is far greater than the mind, which can lead to possibilities of enlightenment.

Yoga is an ancient science and practise evolving over thousands of years. Working on all aspects of the person, moral, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual it is intended to be incorporated into daily life and work on the most inner and outer aspects of the individual.

Some 2000 years ago a great Indian Sage the incarnation of Adesa, Patanjali wrote the yoga sutras. This astounding work gives the seeker a clear path to follow to reach yoga/union/ self-realisation. This is Ashtanga the eight limbs of yoga:


There are five Yamas, these are:

Ahimsa (non violence)

Is to live life refraining from causing pain to any living being including oneself. Every action, word or thought that causes pain to another, any thought containing anger, greed, lust or attachment is a form of violence.

Satya (truthfulness)

To develop honesty, to avoid deceiving others and oneself. To cultivate truthfulness one would need to avoid exaggeration, rationalism, pretence, and all other variants of deceit.

Asteya (non stealing)

To avoid any misappropriation of any material or non-material things, such as acceptance of undeserved praise or not giving back the money if you were over paid change.

Brahmacarya (control of appetites)

To conserve and redirect sexual energy. Celibacy being an attitude of the mind, purity of thought and word. Also within the action of neither indulging too much in an addictive pattern nor repressing desires.

Aparigrata(non grasping)

To avoid the accumulation of unnecessary possessions. Its purpose is to become free, not from possessions themselves, but from the attachment of them so one is unaffected by their loss or gain, being able to let go

2. Niyama

Sauca (purity)

Cleanliness of the body and purity of the mind. As the body and mind are independent, purification of the body is a way of controlling the mind. External cleanliness on a daily manner, daily bathing, clean clothes, living in a clean house. On a subtle level it is purity of action or selfless.

Santosha (contentment)

More than a passive state of mind. It is a virtue to be actively cultivated in order to free the mind from the effects of pleasure and pain. It is about recognising happiness in the now, not when this or that occurs. Or that it only occurs when pleasant situations are experienced.

Tapas (austerity)

Literally, “to burn” in Yogic tapas to burn off all desires by means of discipline, purification, and penance. When austerity is perfected one achieves control over the body and senses without attachment to the austerities.

Swadhyaya (study)

Self inquiry- reflecting deeply on the question, who am I? Study by oneself or teacher. Study with the necessity to review and evaluate our progress.

Isvarapranidhana (surrender)

Recognition that the limited ego –self is an elusion, channelling of energies towards the realisation of truth. One who sees the self in all beings and who has surrendered the ego of being the doer is the true practitioner of Isvarapranidhana.


Asana is the third limb, the word is generally translated as posture or seat with the main reason to prepare the body for siting for many hours in meditation and shifting and awakening the Kundilini energy upwards

Asana is also practised to cultivate strength and flexibility in the body and mind hence improving the endurance and balance within and increased health and vitality.

4. Pranayama

Pranayama is the fourth limb practised in many forms and is generally defined as breath control. The word Pranayama is made up of two roots: prana plus Ayami Prana means vital energy or life force. This force exists within all things. Pranayama is more than breathing exercises providing oxygen to the body for increased energy; it works on a deeper level. Ayama is referred to as extension or expansion. Pranayama has its mysterious power to soothe and revitalise a tired body, a flagging spirit or an unruly mind. The mind is calmed, rejuvenated and uplifted. The focused breath also leads us internally to a deep level of meditation.

5. Pratyahara

(Withdrawing the mind from sense perception)

Pratyhara the fifth limb is liberation of the senses from the objects that attract them. The word means withdrawal. The senses are often externalised, it means to focus the withdrawal of the senses inwardly to generate greater internal awareness. This fifth limb this is the bridge between the inner and outer practises.

The withdrawal of the senses inward cultivates the connection with the self.

Pratyahara can be experienced many practical ways including during an asana practise and focussing on the Ujaii breath, or having the eyes shut whilst smelling a rose infused tissue to notice the sensation totally or drinking a cappuccino and notice all the levels of the experience. Pratyahara cultivates the experience of being totally present and fully experiencing what you are experiencing thus creating the link for the last three limbs Dharana, Dhyana and Samadi.

6. Dharana

Dharana the sixth limb of yoga is concentration. After the mind has been collected unto itself, that is when Pratychara has been accomplished, it must be directed toward one object of concentration being Dharana. The word Dharana is derived from the root Dha meaning to hold on to, carry, and support. It refers to holding onto an object in the mind. In Dharana the mind dwells only on the chosen object such as a statue or picture of a deity, a candle, a breathing practise, looking into the sky or a concept that the mind is focussed one glove, peace etc. This practise is a necessary link with the previous Pratyhara and the next stage of setting one up for meditation or Dhyana.

This process is about pushing the normal barriers of the mind as the barriers are pushed the notions of what the mind normally perceived are changed. Through this process the mind is cultivated to a state that notices what has been perceived in the past or future is only a limited perception hence cultivating mind expansiveness and connecting with divinity within.

7. Dhyana


The word Dhyana is derived from the root Dhi, meaning 'intellect'. Meditation is a technique to stop the thoughts and still the mind, it is a deeper rest than relaxation and practised regularly can generate profound change and experience of the true self beyond the trappings of the mind cultivating the witness consciousness through practising and applying various techniques. When this state is experienced one goes beyond thought and reawakens the intuition, higher self or inner wisdom and greater energy in the mind to improve memory and general health. The state of going beyond the mind to identify with the enlightened pathway, living the life of the ordinary which goes beyond extraordinary.

8. Samadhi

(Super consciousness)

Samadhi is not a quality that can be taught, and it is not a state that can be undertaken by simply deciding to do it.

Samadhi -understanding enlightenment - is the final limb of the eight limbs of yoga. The word is derived from the Sam (together) a (completely) Dha (to hold) thus to hold together completely. Samadhi refers to a changed state of being that might arise from a yogic way of working the mind. Samadhi is the state of wisdom absorption, a transformed state. One who is out of the state of the cravings of polarised thinking, beyond the interplay of world energies clear understanding of the self and obstacles.

It is a state of being beyond the thoughts, a state that is essentially you, yet is much greater than you, beyond name and form. A state that takes you into the now, you cannot find the present moment if you are caught in your mind. The awareness of being between the state of mind and no –mind the state of stillness .The awareness of finding the pure state the bliss realm.

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