The kriya or practice of yoga is based upon three major pillars: mortification, introspection, and respect for the cosmic will. By mortification, we gain the purity of the body. By the practice of introspection, we experience clarity of mind. And by respecting the cosmic will, we merge with the cosmic divinity.
The structure of practice one should follow is provided in the Sutra 28 of Sadhana Pada. It specifies that “after the destruction of psycho-physical impurities, the eight component parts of yoga are to be accomplished one after the other to lead the mind into a cosmic dimension.”
Yamas and Niyamas are a set of definite practices. The practice of them provides the right frame of mood and a sense of surrender which are important prerequisites of a successful yoga practice. You have to let the Yog vibes enter your mind and soul. Without the completion of these practices, it is very difficult to step into the higher practices of yoga.
On the completion of Yamas and Niyamas, one practices asanas. Asanas are a set of psycho-physical practices by which we achieve absolute stability of the body and an unshakable mind. The correct practice of asanas for the purpose of spiritual development is provided by the Yoga Sutras. Asana for any other purpose or benefit falls outside the curriculum of yoga. The practice of asana is said to be successful when the yogi achieves physical non-duality and psychological indifference. These two accomplishments form the basis of further practices which are very fine and subtle in nature.
Only upon the successful accomplishment of Asana, one proceeds to practice Pranayama. The practice of pranayama involves conscious modification of the behavior of cosmic energy or prana within one’s subtle body. The practice of pranayama is the yogic answer to the applied principles of the theory of relativity. Here the space-time dynamics of a yogi are positively modified to accelerate the yog vibes of the yogi. As a result, the yogi acquires millions of years of evolved wisdom within his lifetime.
Pratyahara is the actual process of altering the ambition of the senses and to channel the entire mind-power towards concentration or Dharana. By extreme and prolonged concentration the yogi achieves a state of absolute bliss and beatitude. This state is meditation. Contrary to modern belief, meditation is not a process of practice, but the spontaneous result of a series of other practices. It is a state and not a process. The further practices of yoga are based upon the successful accomplishment of Dharana.
Before achieving the final goals of yoga, a practitioner needs to transcend the various planes of existence. The process to experience and transcend the subtle planes of life and existence is Samyama. During this practice, the yogi gains great supernatural psychic powers called siddhis. Siddhis are not the purpose of yoga practices, but they are valuable indications of our success.
Samadhi is the final stage of evolution. Beyond this point of yogic achievement, there remains no difference between the yogi and the cosmos.