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This third limb involves mastering the 84 postures of yoga.
Mastering these postures is just one limb of yoga. Prior to beginning yoga postures it is a prerequisite to practise the previous two limbs of yama and niyam. Only a rare few are able to master all 84 postures. For practical postures in daily life: padmasan (lotus-posture), sukhasan (sitting cross-legged) and surya namaskar – similar to dandvat pranams – can be practised during the morning nitya puja.


This fourth limb involves control of prana through breath. Prana is a powerful form of energy flowing in the body. Prana and the mind are intricately related. By controlling prana the constantly wavering mind can be controlled. There are several different types of pranayam, which should be learnt from an expert. Its great benefits to students is that it enhances concentration, memory, creativity and eradicates hyperactiveness. The ‘Om’ pranayam is the easiest which can be practised before beginning nitya puja and before studying.


This is the control and withdrawal of the indriyas (senses) and diverting them inwards from their respective mundane sense objects. In Bhakti yoga, the mind is easily withdrawn from mundane objects by offering intense devotion to Paramatma.
Only after mastering these five external limbs can a sadhak – spiritual aspirant – embark on the remaining three internal limbs, namely dharana, dhyan and samadhi. Since the rituals of these are extremely difficult to practise for lay people, they are not discussed here. (For details refer to Hindu Rites & Rituals, 2010, 2nd ed. pp. 222-223.) However, Bhagwan Swaminarayan has revealed an easier and practical endeavour to realize Paramatma, the final goal of ashtanga yoga. In Vachanamrut Gadhada I 42, he cites the example of the gopis. By their intense and unalloyed devotion for Shri Krishna, known as premlakshana bhakti, they became gunatit and nirgun – devoid of maya, and attained Paramatma’s Akshardham. They focused their chitt constantly on only Paramatma. By controlling the chitt in this manner, the pranas are controlled. Bhagwan Swaminarayan declares that such a devotee whose chitt vrutti becomes focused on Paramatma, masters ashtanga yoga without even attempting to master it. Further, in Vachanamrut Vartal 11 he states the need for the Satpurush to help one realize Paramatma easily: “Profound love for the Satpurush is the only means to realize one’s atma; it is the only means to realizing the glory of the Satpurush and the only means to realize Paramatma.”
In the next article we shall discuss rituals of personal nitya puja.

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