Five states of yoga practice

There are five states in yogic practice. The first is strengthening and optimizing the body for its vital functions. The limbs and muscles must be toned and relaxed, blood and vital fluids should circulate vigorously, and toxins and waste need to be expelled effectively.

A relaxed body helps with a relaxed, contemplative mind. It helps in sitting erect cross-legged on the floor needed for further states. This is the second state in yogic practice. There are many techniques to achieve this state.

The third state in yogic practice is prana-ayama. Ayama is exercise. It is important to note that while yoga-asanas are poses, the only exercise or ayama recognized in yoga is prana-ayama. Prana is the primordial life force, a subtle substance, that permeates the entire universe. Prana is often mistaken for breath, but it is not; breath is like a catalyst for transporting prana into the body. Charging up the body with prana has demonstrated that the mind can be further calmed, and blood pressure stabilized and lowered to even sportsman-like levels with regular practice.

The fourth state of yogic practice is Dhyana, mispronounced as Chan in Chinese language and Zen in Japanese. Dhyana or meditation is more easily possible after prana-ayama. In this state, on its own, the breath calms down progressively to minimal levels. When the breath calms down, the mind automatically calms down. The goal of Dhyana is to naturally remove all thoughts from the mind – it is a waste thinking about the past or the future or the present. In the eye of the cyclone, it is perfectly calm and sunny; so it is at the center of every galaxy. It can also be so within you, in your mind, and if you can achieve that, it is powerful. From stillness, you can also direct the mind to solve specific problems quickly and intuitively.

The fifth state of yogic practice is Samadhi. Loosely, it is the primordial, undifferentiated state of sameness prior to the Big Bang. All is one, one is all in Samadhi. There are several levels of Samadhi, with the highest state achievable in a living human body called Nirvikalpa Samadhi, wherein even one’s identity as separate from the universe dissolves. According to one estimate, there are about 500 people living on this planet today who have achieved sustained states of Samadhi. Samadhi requires regular and sustained yoga practice.

Compiled by AHT Desk

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