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What are the 8 (eight) Limbs of Yoga?

8 Limbs of yoga

Yoga – the science of union. The holistic balance can be attained by individuals through the physical practice of yoga and by truly living a yogic lifestyle. Living yoga extends beyond the commitment to the regular performance of yoga postures and consuming a yogic diet. It involves integrating the eight-limbs of yoga into your every thought, word and deed and expanding your understanding of yoga beyond the mat into your life for eternal bliss and harmony.

The 8 limbs of yoga originate from the sacred text of Patanjali Yoga Sutras. Each limb is designed to help the practitioner live a more purposeful and disciplined life.

1. Yamas: The first Yama represents disciplines or practices primarily concerned with our interaction with ourselves and the world around us.

Ahimsa: Ahimsa translates to Non-Violence. Yoga is a harmless science and, it encourages others to adopt an attitude of Ahimsa. Embrace Ahimsa in every aspect of your life. This means not hurting self and those around, respecting one’s body limitations while practicing asanas and above all practicing harmony in whatever you do. “In the presence of one firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities cease.”

● Satya: The second Yama is truthfulness (Satya). In yoga, Satya is a lot more than not telling lies. The Sanskrit word ‘Sat’ literally translates to ‘true essence.’ Therefore, implement Satya when you are on a yoga mat and in your relationships. When you step on the mat for performing a yoga asana, be truthful to yourself and practice the asana as per your body requirements. In relationships, it is imperative that you are truthful to others as well. Chant Asto Maa mantra for commencing on the path of Satya firmly.

● Asteya: In English, Asteya means ‘Non-stealing.’ “Mankind’s greed and need for material needs are stealing.” And, “this need arises because of a lack of faith in ourselves to create what we need by ourselves.” By practicing yoga, we can move towards union– feeling of having enough within ourselves. On the mat, do not overdo a yoga pose because of the feeling you are not better than others. Off the mat, do not become a hoarder and do not rob yourself of experiences the life has to offer.

● Brahmacharya: The fourth Yama of Brahmacharya is translated as ‘celibacy.’ At the foundation, celibacy means adopting a behavior of Brahman that leads to divinity. Adopting the principle of Brahmacharya in life refers to the ‘right use of energy’ away from the external sources towards within– the source of true happiness.

● Aparigraha: It means practicing ‘non-attachment,’ and ‘non-possessiveness.’ This Yama teaches us you keep things that we need and severs the moment. And, let go off when the time is right.

2. Niyamas: Niyamas are the positive duties that we can adopt in our actions with the world around us.

● Saucha (Cleanliness): Saucha is about mental and spiritual cleanliness. Clear your mind and life from bad habits and negative patterns both on and off the yoga mat.

● Santosha (Contentment): With Santosha, learn to accept and appreciate what you have, your own body and move forward towards positivity.

● Tapas (Discipline): Tapas is the third Niyama of cultivating self-discipline in order to live a more balanced life.

● Svadhyaya (Self-study): With the practice of yoga, delve into your inner self, study yourself, study the actions that harm you and come closer to the goal of union with ‘True Self.’

● Isvara Pranidhana (Surrender to higher self): It is the practice of faith, sincerity, patience to transcend the ego and emerge with the universe.

3. Asanas: Asanas (yoga postures) are the physical limb of the yoga. The ‘Asana’ means seat, hence this limb talks about sitting in a steady and comfortable posture for meditation. The Patanjali’s instruction for asana is “sthira sukham asanam.”

4. Pranayama: The word Pranayama is composed of two words “Prana” meaning lifeforce and “Yama” meaning control. Pranayama is the art of expanding the breath to influence the flow of prana inside the body’s energy channels. Yogic breathing changes your state of being, for better.

5. Pratyahara: Pratya means ‘withdrawal’ and Ahara refers to senses of sight, smell and sound that we continuously take in. So, pratyahara is the practice of drawing inward, being fully absorbed in the meditation practices without being distracted from the external sensations of sound.

6. Dharana: Dharana is the sixth of 8 limbs of yoga translating to holding concentration. The Pratyahara and Dharana are closely related because, if you want to develop concentration, you must withdraw from external sensations. Tratak, visualization, focus on breathing are all practices of Dharana.

7. Dhyana: Dhyana is meditation. When you firmly establish yourself in the practices of Pratyahara and Dharana, you can truly meditate. With meditation, you can achieve the goal of mind-body union.

8. Samadhi: It is the eighth limb of yoga. Samadhi is the state of pure bliss and enlightenment.

Adherence to the eight-limbs of yoga is the ultimate path to absolute ecstasy and divinity.

To know more about Eight Limbs of Yoga in further details, explore our Yoga Teacher Training In India.

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