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The 8 Limbs of Yoga

March 20, 2017

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The 8 Limbs of Yoga

March 20, 2017

 

Yoga is a lot more than just holding an awkward pose for what seems like forever. Yoga actually has 8 different steps that make the practice of yoga one of the most powerful life changing experiences I've ever gone through. 

 

What are these 8 Limbs of Yoga?

  1. Yama - The "don'ts" 

  2. Niyama - The "dos"

  3. Asana - Postures

  4. Pranayama - Breath and Circulation

  5. Pratyahara - Turning Inwards

  6. Dharana - Concentration

  7. Dhyana - Meditation

  8. Samadhi – Spirituality

Now that we know what the 8 limbs are, let’s go over what they are in detail.

 

Yama & Niyama

 

The Yamas and Niyamas are like the code of ethics in yoga. They are the guidelines that yogis follow in their everyday lives. 

 

Yama - The "don'ts" (Reactive)

  • Ahimsa (non-violence) – meaning do not be physically, verbally, or mentally violent towards others, and even towards yourself.

  • Satya (truthfulness) – we should not only being truthful with others, but also be truthful to yourself.

  • Asetya (non-stealing) - this is about not only stealing physical items, but also about stealing other peoples time and energy. (Being late to an appointment would be stealing a persons time).

  • Brahmacharya (sexual control) – to begin with this one is really about the control of senses. This includes not overindulging in sexual activities (sense of touch) and over eating (sense of taste).

  • Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) - meaning that we need to not be possessive of objects, places, or people. In yoga it is also believed that we do not own our bodies, so we should not be possessive about our own bodies as well. 

Niyama - The "dos" (What you can control yourself)

  • Shoucha (cleanliness/purity) - the belief is that we are pure, but we are nurtured into being impure. We must try our best to stay clean and pure by avoiding excessive speech, cleanse the body by doing asanas and pranayamas, and cleanse the mind by ridding yourself of negative feelings/emotions. 

  • Santosha (contentment) - we must embrace who we are, and where we are in this moment. Therefor we should respond to changes with equilibrium.

  • Tapa (austerity & self-discipline) - commitment to your growth, change, expanding, and practice. Not to be mixed up with the feelings that you are 'not enough'. This is a balance between growth and contentment. 

  • Swadhyaya (self study) - study yourself with full, unconditional faith. Really get to know yourself, inside and out. Learn about yourself, learn about your emotions and state of being. 

  • Ishwarpranidhana (total surrender to the universe) - the goal of yoga is to realize that you are not alone. It is the unity with ultimate reality. Unbound selflessness. We are all one, and anything you do to another, you essentially do to yourself. So don't be mean to others, because you are essentially being mean to yourself. Which gives a whole new meaning to, "Treat others the way you want to be treated".

Asana - Postures

 

In the beginning the very first yoga pose was just a simple cross-legged sit. This is essentially the pose that we want to get to. However, not everyone can sit cross-legged with ease. Therefore we add in other asanas to help get us to this ultimate state.

 

You need flexibility to be able to cross your legs comfortable, and you need strength to hold your body in that state for a long period of time. We need the sitting posture to do meditation and breathing exercises, so it is very important. 

 

Pranayama - Breath and Circulation

 

The roots of pranayama can be broken down to two different words. Prana meaning the vital energy in the body and Ayama meaning control.

 

In short, pranayama is the control of breath. Therefore breath is super important in yoga. Not only do you need to breathe to live, but learning to control your breath is a super powerful practice that has so many positive benefits on your mind, body, and soul. Ever been stressed out and then took a deep inhale and it seemed a little better? Personally, I can say that I have, and it's worked for me!

 

Pratyahara - Turning Inwards

 

This limb is linked to the Niyama - Swadhyaya (the second limb of yoga). By looking inwards and studying yourself, you gain new insights into your life and your body that you probably didn't know about before. I know that just by practicing yoga, I now have a much better understanding and relationship with myself than I did before. Understanding all the positives and negatives about yourself can give you insight on how to better interact with the world, and with yourself. 

 

Dharana - Concentration

 

This limb ties in with meditation, if you've ever done a focused meditation before. Concentration is something that I feel a lot of people have a hard time with, especially in this day and age where everything is go-go-go and your attention can be split in many different ways. Concentration is something that's hard to practice, but once you can learn to concentrate better, you will find more productivity in your life, leading to a more positive life experience. 

 

Dhyana - Meditation

 

Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard (and even tried) meditation. I have another blog post "Meditation 101" that goes into more details about meditation, but meditation is simply a way to calm your mind and connect to yourself and to your surroundings. This also ties into all the other limbs of yoga as you need to sit in the pose for a long duration of time, you work on your breath, you focus your mind, and you turn your attention inwards (to your breath, thoughts, and the way your body is feeling). 

 

Meditation needs a certain level of concentration, but it also has many benefits including giving you more concentration throughout your day. I've been meditating daily now since January 2017, and I can say that I have seen the benefits of meditation throughout all aspects of my life. 

 

Samadhi - Spirituality

 

This last one is the most powerful one. It's our connection to everything around us. Just like the Niyama - Ishwarpranidhana (the second limb of yoga), we have a connection to everything. And this definition might change a bit based on your religion, but the main point is that we are all connected to something bigger than all of us. Once we master the previous 7 limbs, this 'awakening' to our true purpose is the ultimate goal of yoga. 

 

 

Thank you for reading my explanation of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. I hope you enjoyed and learned a little bit more about the dynamics and depths of this wonderful practice. This is also why we say you can do yoga, on and off the mat. And it doesn't matter if you can not do all the 'Asanas' of yoga, there's more to it than just that. 

 

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the 8 Limbs, please feel free to contact me. 

 

Until next time, have a wonderful day!

 

Namaste,

Lindsay

 

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