What are the 8 Limbs of Yoga?
Yoga is a practice that is designed to reduce the fluctuations of the mind. Once this happens, we are able to meditate and go within, to find our own light & reservoir of wisdom. Yoga extends far beyond the physical practice, or asanas, that we so frequently associate with yoga poses. The 8 Limbs offer practices that can help simplify our lives, and if observed, simplify the thoughts, worries, and preoccupations that keep our “monkey minds” so busy- jumping from thought to thought to thought. These practices prepare us for meditation, and can eventually lead to Samadhi, the state of bliss and peace that is our birthright.
- Yamas–Moral Restraints: These are reflective tools to help increase self-awareness, and insight, and improve our relationships with ourselves and others. There are 5:
Ahimsa-Non-harming: This involves non-harm in acts, words, thoughts, or deeds. This applies to how we speak of others, and ourselves. This is where practicing self-love and compassion is encouraged.
Satya-Truthfulness: Truthfulness to ourselves and others. Choosing our words wisely. Living with integrity.
Asteya-Non-Stealing: Not taking what you don’t need. Having healthy boundaries-physical, emotional, and mental. Living from a place of abundance.
Brahmacharya-Conservation of Creative Energy: Not depleting your vitality, direction of energy, and power towards things that benefit your growth and allow the other yamas to be practiced.
Aparigraha-Non Gripping: Practicing non-possessiveness or non-grasping of things, feelings, memories, and beliefs that don’t serve us in the present. Being able to let go.
- Niyamas–Observances: These maintain a positive environment in which to grow, gain self-discipline and inner strength to progress on the path to yoga. There are 5:
Saucha-Cleanliness: Practicing awareness and cleanliness of state of mind, environment, and lifestyle. Seeking out positive environments inside and out.
Santosha-Contentment: Practicing finding contentment and acceptance with all life gives us, the good and the bad, which can free us from unnecessary suffering.
Tapas-Heat, Self-Discipline: Practicing positive things that go against the grain of what we normally do, and or want to do, builds heat, self-discipline, and willpower.
Svadhyaya-Self-Study: This refers to the study of sacred texts (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or Bhagavad Gita) as well as one’s self. Any texts that bring us closer to self-actualization. To know how/when our ego shows up. Noticing ourselves with a desire to be aware, and to be connected to our “Self”.
Isvara Pranidhana-Surrender to God: Cultivating a deep and trusting relationship with Higher Power, Source, God, Allah, the Universe, etc.
- Asanas: Postures or forms of yoga. Literally means to find comfort and steadiness in your “seat”. It is the least mentioned of all 8 limbs of yoga, in the Yoga Sutras.
- Pranayama: This translates from Sanskrit to “the mastery of life force”. Mindfully breathing can bring the mind, body, and spirit into harmony.
- Pratyahara: Turning inward or conscious removal of attachment/energy to the senses. This allows the mind to move inward, removing external distractions from meditation.
- Dharana: This means concentration (on the present moment or doing one thing at a time). Here we can cultivate control over our minds, intrusive thoughts, feelings, beliefs, memories, etc.
- Dhyana: Meditation on one object or point of focus, with the intention of coming to a better understanding of that object.
- Samadhi: Samadhi is the union of all our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional parts, to reach enlightenment or self-realization.