Yoga has so many branches, there are some that focus on devotion, others have a more rational approach, some that focus on karma (selfless service) while others focus on physical purification. The Pantajali sutras have an eight fold path (Ashthanga) which forms the basic framework.
The Yoga Sutras are threads and consist of four books. Each of these threads of the Yoga Sutras is discovered as a part of a knitted cloth and every single maxim is simply a blotch of color within all of the design. You will get a better understanding of these sutras once you experience them yourself. This is a gradual process in which colors and patterns gradually become clearer until a design forms. This shape that Patanjali knits for us is a detailed narrative of the process of liberating our restricted ideas about ourselves and freeing ourselves.Each is of these eight limbed paths is a part of a holistic emphasis which in due course brings totality to the individual as they connect to the divine.
The first two limbs of the sutras that Patanjali describes are the essential moral principles called the niyamas and the yamas. These can also be considered as universal principles and personal observations.
Niyama means a set of rules or laws. These are the guidelines arranged for personal obedience. Just like the five yamas, the niyamas aren’t drills or activities to be merely studied. They signify quite more than just an outlook. Unlike the yamas, the niyamas are much more detailed and personal. They refer to the approach we embrace toward ourselves as we fashion a way for living soulfully.
1. Saucha – Purity Saucha means purity and sanitation. There is an inner and outer feature to Saucha. Outer hygiene merely means keeping clean. Whereas inner purity has as a lot to do with the well and free working of our physical organs as with the purity of our spirit. Asanas and pranayamas help us to maintain inner saucha. Asanas get rid of all the toxins and pranayama purifies the bod from within. Furthermore it is vital to be cleansed of negative emotions of anger, greed, hatred etc.
2. Santosa means contentment. Humility and feeling satisfied with what we have. We should be at peace, be satisfied with our lifestyle. There are difficulties that will come our way, for that is how we learn, through circumstances. There is a reason for everything that happens, this is called Karma. So cultivate contentment and embrace what comes your way with open arms.
3. Tapas means the controlled use of our energy by keeping the body healthy. Tapas is to heat the body, in the process we cleanse it. Behind the concept of tapas is the indication that we can direct the energy in us to attain our eventual goal of unification with the Divine. Tapas aids us to get rid of all the cravings that prove to be a hindrance to reach this goal. Paying attention to our eating habits, postures, breathing is also Tapas.
4. Svadhyaya is the fourth niyama. Sva means self and adhyaya is analysis or inspection. An activity that nurtures self-reflective realisation is svadhyaya. This means to perform all activities with self-awareness. It encourages us to burn out undesired and self-damaging tendencies.
5. Isvarapranidhana is the celebration of the divine. It is the acknowledgment that the spiritual fills everything and through our kindness and devotion we can accustom ourselves with our role as part of the Creator. It says that we set apart a little time daily to identify the divine which is the guiding light.
The goal of Yoga is not to change an individual; rather, it permits the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.