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The Six Pillars of Yoga

YS IV.29

prasaṃkhyāne-api-akusīdasya sarvathā viveka-khyāteḥ dharma-meghaḥ samādhiḥ

Meaning: Cosmic Consciousness comes to those who are who are free from self-serving motivations, and samadhi (yoga) comes like emotional clouds of energy, mutually beneficial to all. Translation: Austin Sanderson

The term dharma-megha appears just once in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras but it is reasonable to assume that this state of being is central to the entire yogic endeavor. The yogic process is the attainment of the state of dharma-megha (a state of Cosmic Consciousness that ushers in moral perfection for the yogi), which has been the “holy grail” of the yoga tradition for thousands of years. When the sadhu reaches this level of yoga achievement they are no longer motivated by personal desire. This detachment from desire is not apathy but the bliss factor of samadhi itself.

The Yoga Sutras were compiled sometime between 500 BCE and 400 CE by the sage Patanjali in India, who synthesized and organized knowledge about yoga from much older traditions. Throughout the years, different yogic methods have tried to organize the tools of yoga to assist the practitioner in achieving this goal as described by sage Patanjali. It has always been understood in yoga philosophy that the methods of achieving Cosmic Consciousness prescribed for your ancestors might not work as well in your contemporary setting. Because of this, yogis come up with new ways of organizing and approaching old concepts to create new milestones and waymarks for those on the path to enlightenment.

In response to the modern paradigm we exist in, Urban Sadhu Yoga has created a support system that can help a modern yogi sadhu in their yoga practice and spiritual journey. Urban Sadhu Yoga’s six pillars hold up the “Temple of the Self” for the yogi sadhu. Some of the pillars will be familiar to you, while others may be new to you.

SADHANA is the first pillar. Sadhana is a Sanskrit term that literally means “methodical discipline to attain the desired knowledge or goal” of one’s practice. This includes any of the seven traditional types of yoga methods that can be employed by the yogi: Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Tantra Yoga, Mantra Yoga, or Hatha Yoga. In some methods, a teacher may focus on Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion) but by making one dominant over the other yoga traditions you may breed insincerity among some and egoism among others. Different Sadhanas have different rules and observations that speak to each person in a unique way. One yogic practice is not better than the other. Each person will instinctively start their personal Sadhana where they karmically need to focus. For some the starting point will be Hatha Yoga, for others Tantra Yoga may inspire them, and for still others Bhakti Yoga may be a fitting starting point, but we should never assume that we know which Sadhana will be best for someone else. Whatever the Sadhana, one should never judge others or compare one’s own Sadhana to a fellow yogi’s practice. For Sadhana to work, it must speak to each of us on a deep, heartfelt level.

The second pillar in the Urban Sadhu Method is AHIMSA. Ahimsa is the practice of non-violation. We see Ahimsa tossed around a lot in today’s modern yoga community. Unless you have a single, clear, pointed action to accomplish Ahimsa the concept can become lofty. To help solidify this concept: Urban Sadhu promotes a compassionate and ethical lifestyle that emphasizes compassion for all through veganism. As we all know, our food choices affect not only our personal being but all beings around us: people beings, plant beings, animal beings, and environment beings. If our personal food choices are “himsa” (violating) others, we are not living an Ahimsa (non-violating) life – and a yogi wishes to violate or harm as little as possible. Much of the suffering of the world can be traced directly back to our history of ancient animal agriculture. Becoming more conscious about the food we consume is an easy, thoughtful, and compassionate way to incorporate Ahimsa into yogic lifestyle.

That brings us to the third pillar, SVADYAYA or Self-study. Svadhyaya is a compound Sanskrit word, svā meaning “self” and adhyāya meaning “a lesson or introspection.” Svadyaya is a study not of the ego or small personality but a study of the true Divine nature, or Higher Consciousness within. If you connect the dots you see how Sadhana, Ahimsa, and Svadyaya work together to guide us to a higher spiritual purpose. Yoga asana can be used as a tool to start cultivating the witness needed for Svadhyaya. In an asana class you can self-study by asking: am I breathing Ujjayi pranayama, is Mula bandha active, is my gaze or Drishti focused, am I tuning into the verbal cues of the teacher or am I spacing out? Over time you enhance your ability to go deeper into the Self.

DHYANA, the fourth pillar, is deep meditation. The term Dhyana is used in Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, with somewhat different meanings. Because Urban Sadhu Yoga focuses on the Hindu (Sanatana Dharma) text of Yoga, we teach Dhyana from this point of view. Meditation, as stated in The Bhagavad Gita, is a means to one’s inward spiritual journey. Therefore, Dhyana, according to ancient Hindu texts, can be whatever the yogi finds spiritual, ranging from one’s personal identification of God in form, an inspiration in nature such as a snow-covered mountain, the sacred sound of OM, or the contemplation of infinite silence. But in the end, meditation leads us to the unity we are looking for, as the subject and the object become one. Whatever object the practitioner focuses on, it has to be something that the practitioner has a personal connection with or the achievement of union (yoga) will not be possible.

AIKYAM, the fifth pillar, is seeing the unity that yoga reveals. This unity is both outward and inward: it is a true connection not only between the practitioner and the Self, but it goes further as you realize that oneness of being in all things. Yoga or union is both within you and around you at all times; Aikyam is acknowledgment of that oneness. When Aikyam is realized, otherness vanishes.

The last and final pillar of the Urban Sadhu Yoga Method is understanding your DHARMA. Dharma is a Sanskrit word – no single word exists in Western languages that can express the meaning of Dharma. It is often translated into “right duty” or “right way of living.” Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras suggests that Dharma is part of Yoga and Dharma is upheld by the yamas and niyamas. Urban Sadhu Yoga sees Dharma as embracing our role as “Spiritual Activists,” tirelessly working to uplift the world and all beings that we share this Loka or realm with. To live a Dharmic life implies that through critical thinking the yogi understands “right” from “wrong” and the yogi is willing to stand up to forces that are “Adharma,” meaning “that which is not in accord with the dharma.”

The six pillars of Urban Sadhu Yoga are intended to bring ancient esoteric yogic concepts into an understandable and useful support system for the modern yogi to incorporate into a daily practice. Even though we live in the modern world, the state of dharma-megha- samadhi, a state of Cosmic Consciousness, is still accessible to those who seek it.

Austin Sanderson – Urban Sadhu Yoga


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