Upasana practices sharpen the mind and focuses the energy.
Upasana Yoga includes meditation, worship, pujas (ceremonies) and discipline. Upasana means to sit near Isvara (the creator). It is the second type of bhakti (devotion), with Karma Yoga being the first, and Jnana (knowledge) yoga being the third.
“Upasana Yoga can be translated as disciplining and integrating the personality. Upasana Yoga is similar to Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali. Adi Shankara accepts Ashtanga Yoga and renamed it Samadhi Yoga. So Upasana Yoga can also be called Samadhi Yoga.” Explore Vedanta
Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. Notice the similarity between the eight limbs and many of the values expressed in the various Vedantic scriptures.
- Yama: attitude towards others: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth and honesty), Asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (non-lust), aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
- Niyama: attitude towards ourselves: Shauca (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyayay (study of the sacred texts), Ishvara-pranidhana (devotion to God).
- Asana: Hatha Yoga and its various iterations. “Posture is mastered by freeing the body and mind from tension and restlessness and meditating on the infinite,” Patanjali.
- Pranayama: breathing practices to control flow of prana or subtle energy throughout the body. Creates relaxation. Provides access to manomayakosha, the mental/emotional sheath.
- Pratyahara: withdrawing the senses from external stimulus. Bringing the attention inward to the five koshas, the fourth of which is Vjnanamayakosha, the wisdom sheath.
- Dharana: concentration, focusing the mind on an object – breath, candle, mantra,… Instead of pushing away emotion, thought, fear and desire, we bring our attention back to the object of meditation. This creates tapas or heat, which over time, neutralizes our binding vasanas, or raga/dveshas (likes and dislikes).
- Dhyana: meditation. With Nididyasana, the 3rd stage of self inquiry, one moves from meditation on objects, to the subject itself – witness consciousness (sakshi chitanyam).
- Samadhi: abiding as the subject, witness consciousness without distraction. While samadhi or sameness is a state, this limb gives us a taste of the divine and limitless bliss which is our essential nature. As a state, we can lose samadhi, until we have fully neutralized our binding fears and desires and self knowledge is firm.
Below is a depiction of Upasana from Explore Vedanta. “Discipline is meant to conserve and channel shakti. And for a student of Vedanta, power is channelled into the pursuit of moksha.”
Puja (Ceremony): Rituals that pay homage, honor, offer reverence, and celebrate. In many cases, pujas are offered to deities/murtis (statues like Ganesha), which are symbols and gateways to the Self – limitless conscious existence.
Here’s a wonderful mantra to Ganehsa you can use for japa, repetitive mantra that helps stabilize the mind and bring one into silence.
Links for more information on Upasana Yoga: