We know there is a sequence in raja yoga, the eight stages that are Yama, Niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, Dharana, dhyana leading up to the last stage, samadhi. But how many of us followed this sequence with sincerity? How many of us are trying to incorporate the Yamas and Niyama in our lives? Very few – can be counted by the fingers of one hand. We believe that the Yamas and niyamas are moral aspects of yoga that do not concern us because we are different. We begin with the practice of asana and pranayama because they are good for the body. The body releases energy and becomes more flexible.
After practicing asanas and pranayama we say, ‘Okay, now I’m going to practice dhyana.’. We went into a meditative state to create certain images, fantasies and ideas of what should be the dhyana or how we can practice. We skip the practices of Pratyahara and Dharana. Only in difficult times when we thought we could not meditate at all, we rely on the practices of Dharana and pratyahara. Then we ask someone, ‘Look, I cannot concentrate properly. How can I overcome this problem? ‘This person tells us to practice trataka in order to develop concentration and then let the dhyana practice and we get back to dharana to start practicing trataka.
After some time we say to ourselves, ‘Well, I practiced trataka for a month. I do not need to practice more, I will return to dhyana. ‘When we start meditating, we are faced again with our negative and positive aspects, desire and aversion, strength and weakness, which create another movement. When we confront our weakness, we tell ourselves, ‘I do not understand why I have had these results in my meditation. It should feel good, but every time I feel more depressed. I do not know why I have not had good experiences in my meditation, others have so good experiences…’.
After, we consult someone who says, ‘Look, if you are finding these problems in your practice you should return to practice pratyahara. Practice antar mouna, antar darshan or hamsa dhyana and observe what happens inside you. Once you understand better what is happening and you are able to deal with your emotions, feelings and thoughts, then you can go to the practice of dhyana.’ And then we go back again to pratyahara.