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The Stages of Yoga: Degendered

A couple years ago, a dearest friend and I looked at the Ram Das book "Be Here Now", the illustrated version. It is stunning, an epic volume of illustration and poetry coveted by meditators and precious lifestyle curators alike. However, it was entirely dated in its gendering. To bring it up to speed, we have plans to have it de-gendered. Like all good ideas, they need foment. After revisiting Light On Yoga this past week, I found the details of it so masculine-based by default, I thought of the non-duality that my personal practice and sangha is rooted in, and decided to remove low-hanging fruit of separation.

The right means are just as important as the end in view. Patanjali enumerates these means as the eight limbs or stages of Yoga for the quest of the soul. They are:

  1. Yama (universal moral commandments); 2. Niyama (self purification by discipline); 3. Asana (posture); 4. Pranayama (rhythmic control of the breath); 5. Pratyahara (withdrawal and emancipation of the mind from the domination of the senses and exterior objects); 6. Dharana (concentration); 7. Dhyana (meditation and 8. Samadhi (a state of super-consciousness brought about by profound meditation, in which the individual aspirant (sadhaka) becomes one with the object of their meditation - Paramatma or the Universal Spirit.

Yama and Niyama control the yogi's passions and emotions and keep them in harmony with their fellow people. Asanas keep the body healthy and strong and in harmony with nature. Finally, the yogi becomes free of body consciousness. They conquer the body and render it a fit vehicle for the soul. The first three stages are the outward quests (bahiranga sadhana).

The next two stages, Pranayama and Pratyahara, teach the aspirant to regular the breathing, and thereby control the mind. This helps to free the sense from the thraldom of the objects of desire. these two stages of Yoga are known as the inner quests (antaranga sadhana).

Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi take the yogi into the innermost recesses of the his soul. The yogi does not look heavenward to find God. They know that spirit is within, being known as the Antaratma (the Inner Self). The last three stages keep them in harmony with themselves and their Maker. These stages are called antaratma sadhana, the quest of the soul....

Sounds different, huh?


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