The popular concept of Yoga in the ‘West’ is generally of an exercise class. It is much more than that. The meaning of the word yoga is to yolk or bring together. What it brings together, or has the potential to, are the 8 limbs of Patanjalis Yoga Sutras.
The first of these are the Yamas, which focus on ethical considerations. The second are the Niyamas, which focus on personal discipline. Then come the familiar Asanas, the postures. Pranayama, breath techniques, follow this and are also likely to be familiar, as breathing whilst in posture, or Asanas, are essential. There is naturally much more to Pranayama. Taken together the first four limbs help you to sit comfortably in a natural posture.
The fifth limb, Pratayahara, moves us into the meditative state, for which the first 4 limbs are an excellent training. You may have noticed, particularly in balancing poses, how a stray thought can, particularly if focused upon, unbalance you. The mind needs to learn to be still, the senses unfocused. This involves finding a pose you can sit comfortably in whilst you meditate, such as Sukhasana or Siddhasana. Equally of value would be a chair without support for your back, which needs to be naturally aligned.
The 6th limb, Dharana, helps you to concentrate internally, having already developed focus and concentration externally. The 7th, Dhyana, takes you into deep meditation, complete sense withdrawal, where you would otherwise find yourself in sleep, but you remain fully conscious. This is where you can learn to move out of the body whilst still conscious, initially into the Astral realms. The 8th limb is Samadhi, wherein you can connect to the Celestial Hierarchies and know yourself to be a Spirit amongst Spirits. This state is similar to Enlightenment and to Gnosis.
Quite a challenge huh? Still, makes you wonder why we’re here.