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Ashtanga Yoga, The Eight-Limbs of Yoga


Kaivalya describes the effect on the personality of being in a continuous state of samadhi. This is the state of inner freedom that yoga strives for. The word kevala means "to keep to oneself," and kaivalya is sometimes explained as isolation or aloofness. A person in the state of kaivalya understands the world so well that he stands apart from it in the sense that he is not influenced by it, although he may well be in a position to influence the world. People in kaivalya behave like normal people, but they do not carry the burden of the world on their shoulders. They live in the world, but they are not subject to it. They are not free from sensual perception or free of the body, but they are a bit different. Wherever they happen to be, they are sure of themselves. That is kaivalya. External forces have no power over a person like this, though he knows the external world very well.

According to yoga, the purpose of the whole of creation is to give us a context for understanding what we are and what we are not. When we understand that, then there is kaivalya, and prakrti has fulfilled its purpose. A person who experiences kaivalya sees prakrti, the material world, simply as it is, with no meaning beyond that.

By practicing asanas we become more flexible; by practicing pranayama we gain control over our breath. Similarly, with kaivalya: something gradually happens that is beyond our control. We cannot pinpoint the exact moment we attain that state. It is similar to the moment we fall asleep: we cannot pinpoint it. Either we miss the moment or we do not sleep.

There are two forces within us: one comes from our old conditioning, habits and experiences; the other is our new conditioning that develops out of our changing behavior. In this condition, our mind is constantly swinging between the old and the new. But when the old force disappears, the mind no longer swings back and forth. We have reached another state, and it is felt as a continuum.

These eight steps of yoga indicate a logical pathway that leads to the attainment of physical, ethical, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga does not seek to change the individual; rather, it allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.

Related Topic: Samadhi (Fully Integrated Consciousness)

Next Topic: Acu-Yoga

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