Antar Yoga

Yoga is traditionally an Antar (Inner) Journey,
leading to the realization in direct experience of the
Self, Atman, Purusha, Center of Consciousness, or similar terms.

"Antar" (Inner) Yoga:

Codification or Summary

Codified: It has been widely acknowledged that the Yoga of the Yoga Sutras was not something new. It was a compilation or summary of the Yoga which had already been practiced for a very long time. This process of summarizing is called codification. Thus, Patanjali did not write something new. Rather, Patanjali (the Patanjali lineage) codified the principles and practices into 196 brief phrases or sutras. This brevity is the reason that Yoga is historically oral rather than written tradition so as to converse about the sutras, not just because there were no printing presses. While the ideas of bahir (external) and antar (internal) aspects of Yoga were not new, these terms are specifically taught in the Yoga Sutras.

Antar/Bahir in Yoga Sutras

Antar: You may already be familiar with the eight rungs (ashtanga) of Yoga as outlined in the Yoga Sutras: Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. However, Patanjali points out in sutra 3.7 that the last three (collectively called Samyama) are antar or inner compared to the first five rungs, as well as internal compared to any preparation to even embark upon the inner journey. Here is sutra 3.7:

  • 3.7 These three practices of concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and samadhi are more intimate or internal than the previous five practices.
    (trayam antar angam purvebhyah)

Bahir: Patanjali goes on to point out in sutra 3.8 that even these last three rungs are bahir or outer compared to nirbija (referencing nirbija samadhi, the culmination of chapter 1 of the Yoga Sutras, in sutra 1.51. This word "nirbaja" means without or beyond even the subtlest seeds (bijas are seeds) of deep impressions, habits, or samskaras, the driving force behind actions or karma. I cannot go into great depth here in this brief introduction. The understanding and practice of these important principles will grow for you over longer periods of time with gentle persistence. Here is sutra 3.8:

  • 3.8 However, these three practices are external, and not intimate compared to nirbija samadhi, which is samadhi that has no object, nor even a seed object on which there is concentration.
    (tad api bahir angam nirbijasya)

Note that the reference to nirbija samadhi refers back to the last sutra of chapter 1 of the Yoga Sutra, a chapter focused on the highest state of samadhi:

  • 1.51 When even these latent impressions from truth filled knowledge recede along with the other impressions, then there is objectless concentration.
    (tasya api nirodhe sarva nirodhat nirbijah samadhih)
    nirbijah = without a seed, seedless (nir = without; bijah = seed)
    samadhih = deep absorption of meditation, entasy

Throughout Yoga:

These external/internal principles and related practices apply throughout Yoga, not just in these two sutras. For example:

  • Modern posture classes are outer compared to diving inward into traditional Yoga.

  • Yoga of the Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishads are inner compared to modern posture practices.

  • Yamas (rung 1) are external compared to Niyamas (rung 2).

  • Niyamas (rung 2) are internal compared to Yamas (rung 1).

  • Niyamas (rung 2) are external compared to Asana (rung 3).

  • Asana (rung 3) is internal compared to Niyamas (rung 2).

  • Asana (rung 3) is external compared to Pranayama (rung 4).

  • Pranayama (rung 4) is internal compared to Asana (rung 3).

  • Pranayama (rung 4) is external compared to Pratyahara (rung 5).

  • Pratyahara (rung 5) is internal compared to Pranayama (rung 4).

  • Pranayama (rung 5) is external compared to Dharana (rung 6).

  • Dharana (rung 6) is internal compared to Pranayama (rung 5).

  • Dharana (rung 6) is external compared to Dhyana (rung 7).

  • Dhyana (rung 7) is internal compared to Dharana (rung 6).

  • Dhyana (rung 7) is external compared to Samadhi (rung 8).

  • Samadhi (rung 8) is internal compared to Dhyana (rung 7)

  • Samyama (rungs 6, 7, 8 collectively are internal compared to rungs 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. (Yoga Sutra 3.7)

  • Samyama (rungs 6, 7, 8 collectively are external compared to nirbija samadhi (Yoga Sutra 3.8)


Notice that the principles of external and internal are very practical, and sort of obvious with a bit of reflection. Yoga is a systematic process leading awareness step by step from outer to inner, from outer to inner, and once again from outer to inner. Eventually, this process leads to liberation (kaivalya, sutras 2.25, 3.56, 4.28, 4.34) from all the outer levels of attraction, aversion, and false identities. This is the realization of the Self, Atman, Purusha, or pure Consciousness.

As Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras, the Seer rests in its true nature:

  • 1.2 Yoga is the control (nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting, setting aside) of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.
    (yogash chitta vritti nirodhah)

  • 1.3 Then the Seer abides in Itself, resting in its own True Nature, which is called Self-realization.
    (tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam)