Each stage prepares us for the next. A sequence from the outer to the inner.
1 – Yama
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
Your personal ethics, sense of integrity, and how you conduct yourself. The don’ts.
The five yamas are:
Brahmacharya: chastity or fidelity
2 – Niyama
Self discipline and spiritual observances. The dos.
The five niyamas are:
Saucha: cleanliness of mind, body, and speech
Tapas: heat; spiritual austerities and self-discipline
Svadhyaya: study of the sacred scriptures and of one’s self
Isvara pranidhana: contemplation of the Higher Self
3 – Asana
The postures practiced in yoga. The body is a temple of the spirit. In practicing asanas, you also develop discipline and concentration. Asanas are not complicated, muscle-aching stretches. They are a means of relaxing comfortably in a position that will not disturb the mind. The Bhasya lists twelve seated postures:
Krauncha–nishadasana Seated Heron
Hastanishadasana Seated Elephant
Ushtranishadasana Seated Camel
Samasansthanasana Evenly Balanced
4 – Pranayama
Breath control. As you gain awareness of the breath, you learn to recognize the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions. Pranayama works either as a standalone practice (breathing exercises) or as part of a larger sadhana.
5 – Pratyahara
Sensory withdrawal. In this stage, the awareness is withdrawn away from the external world and outside stimuli. Direct your attention inwards, to the habits that might interfere with our inner growth.
6 – Dharana
Concentration. Having dealt with the distractions of the body and the outside world, you can now deal with the distractions of the mind. The concentration of earlier stages is refined; The focus of the Asanas drifts from one part of the body to another, in Pranayama it shifts with the subtle changes in the breath, and in Pratyahara is directed at self-observance. Now, in Dharana, you concentrate on a single point.
7 – Dhyana
Meditation. The uninterrupted flow of concentration. In dharana, your awareness is focused on a single point. In dhyana, this shifts to a keen awareness without focus. The mind becomes quiet. Still.
8 – Samadhi
Ecstasy. Peace. Enlightenment.
Transcending the Self.