8 stages of evolution

Everyone who has attended a stretch class will be familiar about how to go about maintaining and reorganising the physical body by way of exercises. Yet according to the "bigger picture of Yoga", described by Patajali in the Yoga Sutra’s, written in 400 BC, there are 8 stages of spiritual evolution that each human being can achieve. These are:

  1. Yamas (5 social codes) and Nijamas (5 personal codes) - that aim to reduce mental and emotional disturbances.
  2. Asana – physical postures designed to enable you to sit effortlessly and completely still. This has been widely adopted in the western hemisphere and expanded in the way yoga is taught.
  3. Pranayama – the control, guidance and direction of vital energy (prana, Chi, Ki) in the pranic body (Pranamaya Kosha), leading to mental and emotional balance.
  4. From here on the practices become more internally directed and less concerned with the material level of your existence…

  5. Pratyahara – known as the ability to withdraw sensory attachment and concerns practices such as Yoga Nidra, Ajapa Japa, Antar mouna and Kaya Sthairyam – all of which we have begun to practice in the classes.
  6. Dharana – the ability to strengthen the concentration to such an extent that you are able to focus exclusively on one point only and without effort. Here the focus still fluctuates.
  7. Dhyana – at this stage the one-pointedness of attention is experienced as a continuous flow, in which you are conscious of the fact that you are practising, as well as being conscious of the object that you are focusing upon. This is what is called ‘meditation’.
  8. Samadhi – in this stage one becomes only aware of the object that is being focused upon and there is no longer awareness of your limited self. This is a state called "enlightenment".


So in these 8 stages we are evolving and becoming.

The aim of the "18 ities" of Swami Sivananda is to enable you to live and express yoga, by integrating these attributes into all your daily actions and thoughts, rather than just being limited to the attendance of the weekly class. These attributes are as follows:

Sincerity; regularity; (freedom from) vanity; sincerity; simplicity; veracity; equanimity; fixity; non-irritability; adaptability; humility; tenacity; nobility; magnanimity; generosity; charity; integrity; purity.

Swami Niranjananada decribed this as a way to "update you mental software". A way to leave all the old patterns of restrictive thinking and behaviour behind, to move on and become more free to see more of the total picture of life. Over the years that I’ve been teaching I’ve noticed that most people attending the classes were not struggling so much with physical stiffness, but more often the mental stiffness were the most restrictive. By this I mean the inhibitions, doubts, lack of faith/self confidence, anxiety and fears, that limit and block the ability to move forward, to evolve. After all have you ever met anybody on this planet that does not want to feel and be more free, be less burdened by the past and less worried about the future ?

So the "18 ities" concern 18 attributes that you can perfect within yourself, that will "update your mental software" and lead you along the path of greater harmony and freedom.