What is Bahiranga?

The father of yoga, Patanjali, identified the eight limbs of yoga. We can say that there are eight steps on the path and that every yoga practitioner must climb these steps. On the other hand, they are like eight facets of the same gem, all of which are equal and necessary. You should pay attention to each individual limb in order for your yoga flower to blossom. Five of them (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara) form the external aspect of yoga, called Bahiranga, while three others (Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi) create the internal aspect, or Antaranga.

Yama and Niyama are a set of universal moral and ethical standards. They are intended to serve as support, not only for yoga practitioners, but for everyone. You will recognize the precepts of the major world religions in many of them. The principles of Yama are important for us to have a proper relationship with the outside world, while Niyama adjusts your internal world. This is the art of living in harmony with others and with oneself, which is based on the yogic idea: asserting the unity of everything. Asana is the practice of the yoga postures necessary for healing and strengthening of the body. A large number of asanas are associated with the complexity and diversity of the human body. Starting with the health of the physical body, Asana leads you towards mind control and the revelation of the spirit. Pranayama is the breathing practice, the next step after mastering asanas. Prana is a very thin and strong instrument for controlling the body’s vital energy, which is why you should practice with great care. Pratyahara involves the abstraction of a person’s senses from objects of the external world. It is about directing them inside, under the mind’s control. Pratyahara connects the external and internal yoga aspects.

Indian Lotus / Nelumbo, photo: titanium22
Indian Lotus (Nelumbo)
Photo: titanium22

The five limbs of Bahiranga form the basis for external practices. They teach us to work with everything that is external, towards finding our true self. Society, nature, ethical principles, our own body and even our thoughts and emotions are all external. However, that which is internal is the subject of the highest yoga forms, which cannot be taught; they can be only learned. Namely, these are Dharana (mind concentration focused on an object), Dhyana (contemplation on an object), and Samadhi (the absolute mergence and unity with an object, erasing “I”, and the comprehension of the essence).