8 Limbs of Yoga- Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

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Yoga has grown in popularity. I am beginning to see people walking around with yoga mats, sipping on cold presses juices, purchasing organic, wearing hundreds of dollars worth of “yoga gear”, driving electric vehicles and posting yoga poses on social media. I am not saying I don’t do any of these things; I do post photos on social media and have a few pricy items I wear to practice. The point is, yoga is becoming a movement.  yoga movement one way or another influences everyone. Yoga is not just a physical practice; actually the physical practice (Asana) is mentioned very little. The physical practice is not less important that other aspects of yoga, and vice versa. All elements of yoga come together resulting in the common goal of oneness. Below are the 8 limbs of yoga, the 8-fold path to the ultimate human experience. 

  1.  Yama

These are the “don’ts”, what not to do. I relate yama to “do on to others as you would have them do on to you”, and I view it similarly to Karma. There are 5 Yamas;

  • Ahimsa- Nonviolence; Do no harm to yourself others or to any living creature. This can translate on and off the mat. On the mat, don’t push yourself where you can endanger your safety or the others around you. Off the mat, have personal ethics, don’t harm in anyway you would not want to be done to you.
  • Satya- Truthfulness; Have a sense of truth to yourself and to others. Often the truth can hurt emotionally, so it should be communicated constructively. Sometimes it takes others to show your truth in order to realize your own truth.
  • Asteya- Nonstealing; this is exactly what it means, recognizing what is not ours and being content with what we have. Not necessarily physical objects but ideas and thoughts.
  • Brahmacharya- Virtue; Translated as celibacy, brahmacharya is the belief that having intimacy causes the mind to stray. It can also be translated as the control of sense, controlling desires.
  • Aparigraha- Nonconvetousness; Contentment, being happy with what we need. Some translate this as receive no gifts. Letting go of attachment.

2. Niyamas

These are the “Do’s”. The niyamas are guidelines on how to live life. There are 5 niyamas:

  • Sauca- Cleanliness; or purity, basically, don’t live like a slob. Wash you hand, pick up after yourself, organize and provide the necessary nourishment to feed you body. Clean out your house and personal spaces and get rid of objects that serve no purpose or have not been used in a while. Clear your life of the clutter. My mom believes that if you live amongst clutter, your life will reflect that and it will become stressful.
  • Satosha- Contentment; being content in life with where you are, what you have and who is around you.
  • Tapas- literally meaning heat or discipline. Staying away from the monkey mind and be in the present.
  • Svadhyaya- Self-study; discover yourself by find what works and what doesn’t. Continue to grow with knowledge about whom you are and what it means to live.
  • Ishwara Pranidhana- Surrender, Gods will; I like to view this as destiny. I believe that the universe has a plan set out for me and by acknowledging that, i can surrender and live life without worrying about outcome. Im not saying that you cannot control your destiny, but by controlling your own destiny and making certain decisions, might be in your stars, your destiny, God’s will.

3. Asana

Asana is the physical practice of yoga. Asana translates to pose or posture. The objective of asana is to calm the mind in preparation for mediation. The body and the mind are connected, and by being bale to control the physical body, one can develop a very steady posture needed in meditation.

4.Pranamaya

Translating to “breathe”. The wind creates motion in leaves as prank creates motion of the mind, giving rise to vrittis (consciousness). The breath feeds the body; it provides oxygen to the blood which feeds our organs, giving us life. The breath has the power to calm the mind and body. Without breath there would be no life.

5. Pratyahara

This is the withdrawal of the 5 senses (sight, smell, touch, sound, taste). Pratyahara turns off the senses in order for us to focus inward.During practice, this can be harness through your drishti, or focal point. The Shanmukhi mudra can be used to enhance pratyahara.

6.Dharna

Dharna is concentration or one-pointedness. While practicing yoga, . Focus on an object, mantra, affirmation or word.

7.Dhyana

Dyana is a joyous state of meditation. It should be natural and effortless thanks to the 6 previous limbs. During meditation, the meditator will begin to feel separation between himself or herself and an object or mantra while being conscious. When dhyana is done long enough, it will lead to the last limb of yoga, samadhi.

8. Samadhi

Samadhi is the state of consciousness where oneness, wholeness or absoluteness is experienced from all-knowing and joy. This is the ultimate goal of yoga. in Savasana allow yourself to be immersed in dyana and surrender.

This is a life journey and doesn’t happen over night. I hope by discovering the eight limbs we can live in a more conscious world.

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