The most widely known form of yoga practiced in the West is mainly limited to Hatha yoga; which involves body postures known as asanas. However, the benefits of yoga are much more liberating and far reaching then most people realize. Yoga can lead to Self-realization if the eight-fold path of yoga developed by the ancient sage Patanjali is followed.
1. Yama and Niyama
The yamas and niyamas are basically right behavior and action. Some of the yamas are nonviolence, nonstealing, and nonattachment. And some of the niyamas are cleanliness, austerity, and self-study.
Asanas are physical postures that mentally and physically prepare you for meditation. The postures also help release tension and stress in the body; which allows energy to flow freely. Asana practice helps to release physical blocks in the body, which can also help you to release strong emotions and repressed memories.
Pranayama is the practice of controlling the life-force energy through the use of focused breathing.
Pratyahara is internalization. This can be reached when consciousness has been redirected inward, away from the rational mind.
Dharana is concentration. This can be accomplished through the use of mantras. Mantras are the repetition of sacred sounds.
Dhyana is contemplation of the Divine. Attention and focus on God in whatever way you perceive God. This could be a holy figure such as Buddha or an experience of God as Love, Light, Bliss, etc.
Samadhi is transforming consciousness beyond the limitations or worldly delusion. The purpose of spiritual practice is to eventually obtain liberation from worldly limitations and achieve a true perception of reality.
8. Kriya Yoga
Kriya Yoga is an advanced pranayama technique. This technique uses breath to activate the life-force energy in the spine. The practice of Kriya Yoga can accelerate us on the path to obtaining final liberation.