Eight Limbs of Yoga

Most people might look at yoga as just a form of exercise (asana), but it is so much more than just the movement of the body.  You might have remembered me talking about how I did alot of practice during my pregnancy and post-baby but that did not include a lot of movement (asana).  I was doing a more meditative practice in order to keep relaxed and balance during times of chaos.  Having a new baby brings a lot of changes that not everyone is ready for and I for sure was one of those people.  Patanjali, a master yogi, wrote the 8-limbs dating back more than 1500 years ago.  Please find the chart below which shows both the sanskrit term and english translation:

Sanskrit English
Yama moral codes
Niyama self-purification and study
Asana posture
Pranayama breath control
Pratyahara sense control
Dharana intention
Dhyana meditation
Samadhi contemplation

(The above chart was found on Wikipedia)

The combination of mastering all eight limbs enables one to perform Samadhi (the last of the 8-limbs) efficiently. Samadhi then becomes the ulitmate goal, which is of total freedom of being.  Therefore, the eight “limbs” lead to samadhi.

Yama

These are forms of moral commandments, rules, or goals. They consist of acts in our dealings with the external world.

  • Ahimsa: non-violence, inflicting no injury or harm to others or even to one’s own self, it goes as far as non-violence in thought, word and deed.
  • Satya: truth in word and thought.
  • Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that one should not even desire something that is his own.
  • Brahmacharya: abstain from sexual intercourse; celibacy in case of unmarried people and monogamy in case of married people. Even this to the extent that one should not possess any sexual thoughts towards any other man or woman except one’s own spouse. It is common to associate Brahmacharya with celibacy.
  • Aparigraha: non-possessiveness

Niyama

These are a form of moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals. They consist of acts in our dealings with the inner world.

  • Shaucha: cleanliness of body and mind.
  • Santosha: satisfied with what one has.
  • Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline and thereby mental control.
  • Svadhyaya: study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within,
  • Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of) God.

Asana

Rules and postures to keep the body disease-free and preserving energy. Correct postures through discipline of the body are a physical aid to meditation. These postures control the limbs and nervous system and prevent them from producing instability.

Pranayama

Control of breath. This allows for steadiness of the body and is highly conducive to the concentration of the mind.

Pratyahara

Withdrawal of senses from their external objects.

Dharana

Concentration of the citta (one’s state of mind) upon a physical object, such as a flame of a candle, the midpoint of the eyebrows, or the image of a deity (supernatural immortal being).

Dhyana

Steadfast meditation. Undisturbed flow of thought around the object of meditation.  The act of meditation and the object of meditation remain distinct and separate.

Samadhi

Oneness with the object of meditation. There is no distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation.

This may seem a little deep for some people into the world of yoga but this is a broad picture of what it takes to get the most out of your yoga practice.  Most people will never attain Samadhi, and I am one of those people because I unfortuantley do not dedicate enough time to my practice.  But knowing that there is something to strive for, to practice towards, makes yoga that much more challenging and that much more rewarding.  So as you take your next yoga class or begin a yoga program, remember that yoga is so much more than just the movement and you can practice yoga everyday and it will help you become a better person.

~Namaste~

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