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The Subtle States Of Yoga
Upon hearing the word ‘yoga’ most people conjure up the image of people moving through elaborate postures in a hot room with loud music. Those of us who have studied Yoga know that asana, or the physical movement that people imagine when Yoga is mentioned, is just one of eight limbs, or aspects of yoga. Though we look at the eight limbs separately, they are a system that exists together as an education guide to Self Realization. Although some practitioners benefit greatly from the physical practices of yoga asana and pranayama, the more subtle practices lead to states of liberation and bliss. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, eight aspects of practice are introduced to practitioners so that all of the practices, gross and subtle, are accessible. The steps are laid out to successfully guide one through the layers of experience and to complete Oneness and Ananda, or bliss. Antaranga takes us past the physical and towards the internal practices that support our connection to the spiritual aspects of yoga that can sometimes be forgotten and allows us to connect further with our psychic energy.
Antaranga means internal, or inside, and refers to the three angas, or the last three of the eight limbs: dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (contemplation). These states of being are beyond the mind and are achieved as practitioners move from pratyahara beyond the object of focus. Dharana, or the state of concentration, occurs when concentration consumes awareness as the object of one’s concentration dissolves into oneness; bringing one’s focus beyond the initial object of attention. Candle/flame pratyahara practices, or Tratak, are very commonly used to help hone concentration.
Dhyana, or meditation, occurs when there are longer periods of time in the states of dharana. Meditation is not about eliminating all thoughts that enter the mind; although that does happen sometimes, it’s not the most common experience. Mediation is not an act but a state of being. When one is in meditation, one is fully present, aware, and awake in a totally objective state of mind beyond the I, me, my, and one might say in return to the Universal “I” consciousness. Samadhi is a state of enlightenment where we recognize our divinity and the divinity of all beings, where there is an understanding of the oneness of Christ-consciousness or Supreme Consciousness. Although intimately related, each of these inner states takes us beyond our perception of personality and individuality and ultimately awaken the wellspring of compassion that is living through our experience. The more frequently we experience these states, the more regularly we can access them. The more time we experience in these states the more we realize who we are and who everyone else is, too.
Although states of samadhi are not permanent, the more one experiences them the more accessible they become. Effort and practice are required to maintain an enlightened state. Asana and pranayama will certainly help practitioners maintain health and wellbeing in the physical body, but they are not enough to help practitioners maintain the psychological and spiritual practices of yoga that ultimately lead to these subtle states of being. Incorporating the Yamas and Niyamas into one’s practice is instrumental in cultivating a practice that will yield the clarity required to come to states of dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Thus, helping practitioners make their way to the inner practices from the external to the internal, to help us harness our internal power and rediscover our connection to Universal Consciousness. Antaranga yoga allows the student to harness the powerful tools of the contemplative practices of Yoga that have been utilized for centuries to relieve dukha and uplift Universal Consciousness.

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