Now it´s time for the rest of the journey through the 8 limbs of yoga. This time the concentration lies in the senses, the mind and the higher state of consciousness. If the first four limbs were Hatha Yoga then the last four steps make part of Raja Yoga.
5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal of senses
It means that we consciously draw our awareness out from the external world and direct our attention into ourselves. It´s the state where we get away from outside distractions and we can then turn our gaze internally. We are in the world but not of it. Pratyahara often happens almost automatically when meditating, because when the mind is deeply focused the senses follow.
Patanjali says that this process is at the root of human unhappiness and uneasiness. This is because we ourselves create much of our emotional imbalance when letting senses become our masters instead of keeping them under control.
6. Dharana – Concentration
Here we need to deal with distractions of the mind itself, which indeed can be a tricky task. In this practice we try to slow down our thinking process and focus our attention on any selected point or object. This object of concentration can be located inside or outside the body – for example one of the energy centers in the body, an image or a repeated sound. This should help us to still the mind. The objective is to achieve the mental state where the mind, intellect and ego are all restrained, therefore there is no feeling of “I” or “mine”.
7. Dhyana – Meditation
This seventh step means uninterrupted flow of concentration. The mind is quiet and produces few or no thoughts at all. The difference between concentration and meditation is that there is no focus point here. It is perfect contemplation. As the veils are lifted, the mind becomes clearer and unhappiness and fear vanishes. At this state of freedom we have reached the goal of yoga.
8. Samadhi – Union with the Divine
Samadhi is the final stage of yoga - enlightenment. The meaning is “to bring together, to merge”, therefore it is the experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe. At this state the whole of mind has become one wave and it doesn´t distinguish between self and non-self. In Samadhi only one of the meaning of thought is present and we go beyond consciousness. For many people it sounds surreal and only few can reach this point, but it´s more like a goal and desire, such as all human beings aspire peace. Only with constant practice and devotion you can reach the top - Once dharana has occurred, dhyana and Samadhi can follow.
It´s promised that following all these eight steps leads to the attainment of physical, ethical, emotional and spiritual health. These steps are challenging and it´s good to remember that they are general rules. Each of us in our own lives can only do our best. Yoga doesn´t try to change the individual, but it allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.