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The Eight Steps (Angas) of Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is a process of control of the gross body which aims at freeing the subtle body.

There are eight main steps in this process which, according to Patanjali (quoted above) are: abstinences, observances, sitting postures, breath control, withdrawal of the mind from external objects, concentration, contemplation and identification. These are technically helped by the body gestures (mudras), the muscular contractions (bandhas) and the six internal purifications called the "six actions" (shat-karma).

The eight steps of Hatha yoga are divided into two stages: (a) the "Outer stage" (Bahira-anga) which comprises abstinences, observances, sitting postures and breath control, and (b) the "Inner stage" (antara-anga), also spoken of as "the bound (samyama) stage", which comprises withdrawal, concentration, contemplation and identification.

Breath control, without which the withdrawal of the senses from their objects is in practice impossible, stands as the gateway leading from the Outer to the Inner stage.

Certain technical schools of yoga consider that the practice of the abstinences and observances is almost impossible in the present age and they replace them by the six internal purifications and the gestures; counting concentration and contemplation as one, they acknowledge only seven steps of yoga.

"The seven steps of Hatha yoga are the six purificatory actions, the sitting postures, the hand and body gestures, mental withdrawal, breath-control, contemplation and identification."

The effect of training in these respective steps of Hatha yoga is said to bring about cleanliness of the inner channels and arteries (Nadi sanshodhana), independence from the effect of worldly contacts (Nirliptata) and liberation (Mukti).

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