What is yoga? The classical texts define yoga as a process of channelling the forces or expressions of the mind. How? By following a discipline. What is the aim of discipline? To establish yourself in your real nature. These are the first three statements in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and are the foundation of yoga practice and philosophy. If yoga was only physical exercises, these statements would reflect that physical component. But they do not. If yoga was a religion, these introductory statements would reflect that religious inclination. But they do not; rather, in the yogic tradition yoga has to be seen as a discipline, a lifestyle and a science of practical living.

In order to create a system, a progressive practice, and to immerse oneself in yogic disciplines, there is a very beautiful sequence. Yoga begins with the body, goes to the mind and aims to realize the inner nature. The question can arise: If yoga deals with the mind, why does it begin with the body? Yoga looks at the well-being of the total personality, of the body, mind and spirit. Body, mind and spirit have to come together so that we can become a complete human being and experience the wholeness of life.

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Yama and Niyama, if practiced truthfully and fully, become mahavrata or great commitments that transcend time, space, and situations. Further, the entire environment around the person becomes charged with these virtues and hostility is not seen in his/her presence. In the recent past, we have many examples of people who practiced satya and ahimsa and this fact (absence of hostility) was observed in their vicinity. Thus, there is immediate outcome of Yama and Niyama practices.

However, the ultimate goal of practicing yoga is to achieve transcendence and to break this cyclic existence. Dharana, dhyana, and samadhi are the three states that prepare one toward this transcendental goal. These three together is called Samyama (sam meaning total and yama meaning to control). “So Samyama means complete mastery over the psychic process or complete control of mental concentration.”
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