Monday, September 12, 2011

The Eight Limbs of Yoga Explained

When I was thinking up a name for my new blog, I tried to focus on 3 things;

-the topic of writing
-the overall mood of practicing yoga
-a phrase to get to the heart of the matter

I didn't want to color the title with any sort of judgement or suggestion of a limitation, but instead stumbled across the truth of the matter. I saw this as using the 8 limbs or path to yoga in a chair, and being numerically "punny" along the way! The number eight is often associated with infinity, and with the incarnation of matter and the entirety of the universe. Humans have 8 chakras or centers of spiritual power, if you include the star or soul chakra.

The eight limbs of yoga were first described in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, dating 2nd century BCE, although some indologists argue it was compiled over a long period, from 100 BCE and 500 CE. The eight limbs of yoga, or parts that make up the practice of yoga are:

(5 external aids to Yoga)
1. Yama-> ethical code of conduct (five abstentions), including non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-covetousness, non-possessiveness 
2. Niyama-> religious observances & practice (five observances)
3. Āsana-> discipline of the mind and body, mind & body connecting through posture/poses
4. Pranayama-> breath control, breathing to connect mind & body
5. Pratyahara-> withdrawing of the external senses to achieve internal consciousness
(3 internal aids to yoga)
6. Dharana-> focus, single-mindedness
7. Dhyana-> meditation
8. Samādhi-> blissful awareness of the "absolute" (supreme soul), superconsciousness

These might sound a little airy-fairy on paper, as it is hard to put such feelings into words, but in practice they feel very concrete and important. Obviously I don't understand them all yet, as I have just started yoga and have only done a bit of practice. I have been doing a bit of research about yoga in general (as I love to do for any new subject).

Last week Michelle gave me "How to be a Yogi" book, by Swami Abhedananda, an in-depth look at the steps to becoming a true yogi. The book was taken from a series of lectures and published in '55. She brought it back from India, where it costs a dollar. The writer is clearly quite spiritual, so you've got to take the things he says with a grain of salt. He seems like a pretty cool hard-core yogi tho!

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