Eight stages of yoga
Yoga practice forms a ladder leading to perfect knowledge. (1) Self-control (yama) involves truthfulness, abstinence, avoidance of theft, refusal of gifts, and not doing injury to living things. (2) Religious observance (niyama) embraces austerity, poverty, contentment, purification rites, recital of the Vedic hymns, and devoted reliance on the Supreme Being. (3) Postures (āsana), of which there are a great many, are regarded as basic to all the stages that follow. (4) Regulation of the breath (prānāyāma) includes altering its depth and rhythm, breathing through either nostril at will, and the virtual suspension of breath. (5) Restraint of the senses (prātyāhāra) means their withdrawal from external objects and the consequent turning of the mind upon itself. (6) Steadying of the mind (dhārāna) narrows attention to some one part of the body, such as the navel, the tip of the nose, or the middle of the brow, and in that way renders the practitioner insensitive to outside disturbance. (7) Meditation (dhyāna) fixes the mind on the object of knowledge, especially Brahma, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. (8) Profound contemplation (samādhi) is the perfect absorption of thought in the object of knowledge, its union and identification with that object. The achievement of samādhi liberates the self from the illusions of sense and the contradictions of reason. It is thought that has gone beyond thought, reaching its goal by its own negation. It leads to an inner illumination, the ecstasy of the true knowledge of reality.
the types of yoga
Aspirants have a selection of practices to suit their capabilities and environments. Many of the wonder-working Yogi and almost all Occidental devotees are practitioners of Hatha (physical) Yoga. The latter is the basic system because it is concerned with developing those bodily controls from which all else follows. The other systems differ mainly in the varying emphases placed on the several phases of Yoga practice. Perhaps the most popular system in India is Bhakti (devotional) Yoga. This system emphasizes the first two stages of Yoga discipline, that is, self-control and religious observance. Other important Yogas are Mantra Yoga, which devotes itself to uttering the name of Krishna and other incantations; Karma Yoga, the path of work and service; and Jnana Yoga, the way of intellect. The synthesis of Bhakti, Karma, and Jnana Yogas is called Raya (royal) Yoga.