The Eightfold Path of Yoga
THE BHAGAVAD GITA & YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI
Yoga, the timeless science behind all true religions, consists of systematic and definite steps to realization of the soul’s oneness with Spirit.
The Bhagavad Gita, which is a sacred dialogue between the divine teacher Krishna and his disciple Arjuna, is India’s most beloved scripture of yoga, as explained in Paramahansa Yogananda’s definitive two-volume translation and commentary: God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita — Royal Science of God-Realization.
The essence of the yoga path was set forth in systematic form by the ancient sage Patanjali in his short but masterly work, the Yoga Sutras. Paramahansa Yogananda has written:
“Patanjali’s date is unknown, though many scholars assign him to the second century B.C. His renowned Yoga Sutras presents, in a series of brief aphorisms, the condensed essence of the exceedingly vast and intricate science of God-union — setting forth the method of uniting the soul with the undifferentiated Spirit in such a beautiful, clear, and concise way that generations of scholars have acknowledged the Yoga Sutras as the foremost ancient work on yoga.”
The yoga system of Patanjali is known as the Eightfold Path, which leads to the final goal of God-realization.
PATALI'S EIGHTFOLD PATH OF YOGA:
Yama (moral conduct): noninjury to others, truthfulness, nonstealing, continence, and noncovetousness
Niyama (religious observances): purity of body and mind, contentment in all circumstances, self-discipline, self-study (contemplation), and devotion to God and guru
Asana: right posture
Pranayama: control of prana, the subtle life currents in the body
Pratyahara: interiorization through withdrawal of the senses from external objects
Dharana: focused concentration; holding the mind to one thought or object
Dhyana: meditation, absorption in the vast perception of God in one of His infinite aspects — Bliss, Peace, Cosmic Light, Cosmic Sound, Love, Wisdom, etc. — all-pervading throughout the whole universe
Samadhi: superconscious experience of the oneness of the individualized soul with Cosmic Spirit (source)
THE IMPORTANCE OF YAMA: PRECEPTS OF SOCIAL DISCIPLINE
Ahimsa -- Non-violence. Not harming other people or other sentient beings. Not harming onesself. Not harming the environment. Tolerance even for that which we dislike. Not speaking that which, even though truthful, would injure others.
Satya -- Truthfulness. Note that sometimes we may know our words are literally true, but do not convey what we know to be truthful. This is a child's game. Satya means not intending to deceive others in our thoughts, as well as our words and actions.
Asteya -- Non-stealing. Not taking that which is not given
Brahmacarya -- Sexual responsibility. Regarding others as human beings rather than as male and female bodies. The spirit of this precept is conservation of energy for the purpose of spiritual practice. This includes not only sexual restraint, but protecting our energy for instance by avoiding endless chattering with no clear purpose.
Aparigraha -- Abstention from greed. Not coveting that which is not ours. Avoidance of unnecessary acquisition of objects not essential to maintaining life or spiritual study.
THE IMPORTANCE NIYAMA: PRECEPTS OF INDIVIDUAL DISCIPLINE
Sauca -- Cleanliness. Not only external cleanliness of the body, but attending to internal cleanliness such as avoiding the impurities of anger and egoism. Moderation in diet.
"Cleanliness is next to Godliness."
Santosa -- Contentment. Not spiritual complacency, but acceptance of the external situation we are allotted in this life.
Tapas -- Austerity. Deep commitment to our yoga practice.
"Blazing practice with religious fervor."
Svadhyaya -- Self-study. Spiritual self-education. Contemplation and application of the scriptures or sacred texts of our chosen path.
Isvara pranidhana -- Surrender of the self to God. Acknowledgement that there is a higher principle in the universe than one's own small self. Modesty. Humility. (source)