First Foundations for the Practitioner of the Integral Yoga

Patanjali’s Raja Yoga outlines a series of steps or stages in the development of that particular path. The first two are Yama and Niyama, which outline certain purification actions to prepare the practitioner for the later activities and experiences in the yogic practice. These two ‘limbs’, together, represent a solidifying of peace, the removal of obstacles that can disturb the mind, the emotions, the nervous sheath and the body. The result is a peaceful and harmonious energy and a solid strength to avoid being distracted or disturbed, with a calming of the basic ‘mind-stuff’ (chitta) as a preliminary basis for the practice of raja yoga. This also helps maintain the balance needed to avoid mental, emotional or nervous breakdowns as the higher forces begin to act and manifest openly in the being as the yogic process progresses. The subsequent two ‘limbs’ are asana and pranayama. Asana provides the solid ‘seat’ upon which the yogic experience rests. It does not refer only to the physical posture, but to the ‘seat’ of consciousness in the being, to ensure stability and solidity as the forces acting in the being increase and intensify. Pranayama involves balancing the breathing process to bring a state of harmony and equanimity to the being and to gain control over the mental and emotional processes which are intimately linked to the flow of the prana in the being.

All four of these steps in Raja Yoga represent purificatory and preparatory stages to allow the further four steps to bear fruit without harming or destroying the body, the life-energy or the mind of the practitioner, although it could be said that the advanced forms of pranayama are not simply preparatory, but are actually an implementation stage in the yogic process.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The Rajayogis are right in putting purification in front of everything — as I was also right in putting it in front along with concentration in The Synthesis of Yoga. You have only to look about you to see that experiences and even realisations cannot bring one to the goal if this is not done — at any moment they can fall owing to the vital still being impure and full of ego.”

“Equanimity and peace in all conditions, in all parts of the being is the first foundation of the yogic status…. Peace is the first condition without which nothing else can be stable.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pg. 62


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