The 8 limbs of yoga
Yoga is more than postures. There is a lot you need to learn about it. This is the exact reason why we exist. To help you learn more about various topics. So, in this article, we’re going to help you learn more about yoga.
Did you know that yoga has been in existence for over 5000 years? Yes, it has. It has been taught for over 5000 years. It has actually been taught as a health system. Its purpose has been to help people improve their spiritual, mental, and physical wellbeing.
So, what is this concept of the 8 limbs? Well, the 8 Limbs of Yoga is a concept found in a book titled ‘Yoga Sutra’. This book was written by the sage Patanjali in circa 200AD. It describes yoga as an eightfold path through which we attain Samadhi ultimate goal. Samadhi means pure consciousness. So far so good right? Right. Now, the limbs which you can also call practices follow each other. Some people follow the 8 paths strictly. Others focus on some practices. Having a better understanding of the 8 practices/limbs may help you make a better yoga decision. You may decide to follow the 8 limbs in a disciplined manner. Alternatively, you may add a new limb to your yoga practice. Either way, you will have better yoga experience. The 8 practices will also serve as a guideline on how you should live a purposeful and meaningful life. Let’s look at these limbs.
Yamas have to do with ethical standards. They provide a code of conduct that we should observe when interacting with others. They provide guidelines on how to treat other people. They also provide guidelines on how people should not treat others. The Yamas represent restraints or borders. They show us the extent we should go when interacting with other people. Observing these borders can help create a productive, healthy, and happy life. There are 5 Yamas.
- Ahimsa- This Yama requires us to treat everyone with kindness and not to harm them.
- Satya- It requires us to always tell the truth. It also requires us to support people who speak the truth.
- Asteya- This Yama prohibits people from stealing. It requires that we leave everything that doesn’t belong to us.
- Brahmacharya- This Yama promotes celibacy. For people already in marriage, this Yama requires honesty and fidelity.
- Aparigraha- This one here prohibits coveting other people’s properties.
Unlike Yama which focuses on the outward, Niyama focuses on the outside. This limb focuses on spiritual observances and self-discipline. It requires Yoga lovers to attend religious services regularly, meditate, or take contemplative walks. It’s about a relationship with yourself. They include:
- Saucha– This involves purification of mind and body in preparation for meditation. Purification may mean clearing thoughts that distract us from our purpose. Such thoughts include those that dwell on negativity.
- Santosa- This is about contentment. It’s about feeling happy about ourselves. This niyama discourages constant feelings of dissatisfaction.
- Tapas- Tapas encourages self-discipline as well as persistence.
- Svadhyaya- This niyama encourages people to be diligent world students, formally or informally.
- Ishvara Pranidhana- This encourages devotion to God. It encourages yoga lovers to take it as a spiritual practice that affects the whole being.
Asana is more than familiar to yoga lovers. It includes all yoga postures. Initially, asana meant finding a comfortable sitting position to practice meditation. Today, asana is used to mean all yoga postures. However, the posture should be comfortable and steady. By practicing asana, people develop the ability to concentrate and discipline essential for meditation.
This fourth limb of yoga focuses on breath control. It requires regulation of exhalations, inhalations, and breath retention in a cyclical manner. While doing this, this limb requires recognition of the connection between mind, emotions, and breath. Such practices are known to rejuvenate your body as well as extend your life. Pranayama can be practiced as a technique or be integrated into other yoga practices.
These first four limbs focus on;
- Refining personalities
- Understanding our bodies
- Being aware of ourselves
They prepare us for the second journey, the next four limbs.
This limb requires withdrawal from the outside world. It is time to focus on the inner self. It requires taking time to look at ourselves. We look at habits that may be interfering with our inner growth.
During this stage, you deal with internal distractions. You have already relieved yourself from external distractions. It is now time to focus on one thing. This is not easy. Still, you need to concentrate on one object. This concentration will lead you to meditation.
This is the uninterrupted concentration flow. At this point, the mind produces no thoughts. You need a lot of stamina and strength to reach this state. Don’t give up though. Remember yoga is a process. You become better with time. The good news is that you benefit from every practice of yoga.
This is the final limb of yoga. You become an enlightened being. At this point, there is no difference between the meditation subject and the meditator. You realize essential oneness with the meditation subject. Here, the mind loses its own identity after being so absorbed in what you are contemplating.
These are the 8 limbs of yoga. From the time this concept was developed things have changed. This has transformed their application in the present moment. This is why some limbs don’t fit impeccably in contemporary yoga. Still, we can’t overrule the benefits of these limbs today. There is a lot to learn from them. We get to learn how to treat ourselves, treat others, value devotion, and value contemplation. All these play major roles in physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Every limb is designed to help us live a more disciplined life and have a goal of alleviating suffering.
Clearly, we all have a choice when it comes to yoga practices. One day you will wake up and decide to follow the 8-limbs path. The next day, you may decide to do a few postures. Well, there is no one single right way. You should only settle for what you feel comfortable with. However, have a deeper understanding of the paths gives you a new dimension about yoga. You may find yourself following the 8 limbs path strictly. You may alternatively add some more practices to your yoga routine. The most important thing though is to ensure that your practice helps you to live a disciplined life and to alleviate suffering.