The Yoga is traditionally divided into eight aspects or helps, also said Astanga.
Transcribed in the Yoga Sutra by Test Patanjali, the helps am inter-related; each of them has several facets which reveal themselves through the study of the texts and with the practice. They progressively lead to the highest consciousness stadiums and to the spiritual life; the disciplines which constitute them are gradually have more interior.
The steps, branches or aspects of the Raja Yoga are the following:
Yama: understands the moral precepts of:
not violence (ahimsa)
do not steal (asteya)
not avidity (aparigraha)
These beginnings of rectitude are universal, and constitute the foundation of the Yoga. The essence of the Yama is not to damage any living creature with the thoughts, the words and the acts. The translation of the concepts is only approximate: each of them has a wide meanings and applications range, which changes according to the circumstances and the personal progress level.
Niyama: they are the personal practices which must be observed:
purity, cleanliness of the mind and the body (sauca)
fervour for the object of the study, perfection, burning effort (tapas)
study of the himself (svadhyaya)
abandon to God of all the thoughts and the shares (Isvarapranidhana)
The practices of the Niyama establish the discipline of the daily life.
Asana: they are the Yoga positions.
The asana (sukham) come described as buildings (sthira) and cheerful.
To obtain the mastery and the perfection, a prolonged continuos effort is necessary. The body and the mind move in harmony and assimilate with the infinite. All the rivalries of the mind cease existing.
Patañjali does not mention the asana with their name, but it supposes a long tradition of their practice. Some positions are mentioned in various comments to his work and in other witnesses on the Yoga. In India, after Patañjali, the systematic and precise practice of the asana died out. In recent years thanks to the work of B.K.S. Iyengar, the wealth and the depth of the asana start being again appreciated.
Pranayama: it is the art of the Yoga respiration.
He consists in the regulation and in the refinement of the inspiration, the exhalation and the apnea. Learning to audit and canalize the vital breath induces an introspective and opens the doors of the spiritual knowledge. The pranayama it is possible to learn only after reaching a good level of mastery of the asana. The breath is formed by the air raw element and from the prana, the vital strength what pervades the universe. The prana is the connection ring between the human organism and the cosmos. Since the prana is compound of energy, all the traditional witnesses on the Yoga warn practising the pranayama without a guide and before than the pupil am ready.
Pratyahara: it is the withdrawal of the senses from the outside world in the himself.
The outside distractionesses are not able to exceed the threshold of the internal world.
Dharana: it is a state of uninterrupted concentration, in which the mind is constantly focussed on a point or a particular object.
To reach this state, a constant practice is necessary.
Dhyana: it is the meditation.
The duration of the concentration increases till the mind reaches to melt with his object and admires it ceaselessly.
Subject and object become an All in one.
Samadhi: it is a state trascending further on the meditation.
The psychological processes stop and the conscience is completely absorbed in the soul. It is the truth and beatitude state. Samadhi is the peak of the Yoga practice, and reaches the himself of thin. It is divided into various levels of spiritual evolution, connected to ambits away more raised away. The maximum level “Samadhi without seed” is defined: in the mind wishes are not several tracks of the shares; this state is also defined kaivalya, that is the isolation of the soul from the matter.