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Sadhana Bahiranga in Yoga

Sadhana Bahiranga is the first five parts of Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali. Bahiranga literally means the outer parts. Anga means the body, a limb or a part or section. Different practices in Yoga area called the angas or yoga, and depending upon their number, Yoga itself is spoken of as composed of so many parts. Thus sadanga yoga means Yoga with six parts. Ashtanga yoga means Yoga with eight parts. Hatha yoga is divided into four main parts, namely asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control), special practices meant for arousal of the dormant power called kundalini (mudras) and concentration on the inner sound (nadanusandhana). Here, the postures are said to form the first anga of hatha yoga.

Six-fold Yoga is mentioned in Amritananda Upanishad (verse 6). The six angas are

  1. Pratyahara (withdrawal of mind)
  2. Contemplation (dhyana)
  3. Pranayama (breath control)
  4. Dharana (concentration)
  5. Tarka (reasoning)
  6. Samadhi

Six angas of Yoga are also mentioned in Dhyana Bindu Upanishad (verse 41) and Yoga Chudamani Upanishad (verse 211). But there, instead of reasoning, postures are included among the six parts of Yoga. In Tejobindu Upanishad (I.15-16), fifteen angas are mentioned. They include the eight angas of Patanjali’s Yoga (which are mentioned also in Yoga yajnavalkya (I.46-47).

It is customary to divide the eight angas of Patanjali’s Yoga into two groups, namely bahiranga (the outer parts) and antaranga (the inner parts). The outer parts are –

  1. abstinences, 
  2. observances, 
  3. postures, 
  4. breath control,
  5. withdrawal of senses (pratyahara). 

They are called outer in comparison with the next three parts, because they are to be practiced in the beginning.

The first five are called bahiranga sadhana because

  • One can be seen doing them
  • Bahiranga sadhana can be practiced but antaranga sadhanas happen
  • Bahiranga sadhana is to do with bahyavisaya (external objects) while antaranga sadhana is to do with antaranga visaya (internal objects).

Unless they are mastered first, the mind cannot be made progressively silent in the practice of the inner parts, which are – concentration, contemplation and Samadhi.