Yoga means union:
the union of the physical and nonphysical;
of body and spirit;
of you and something Greater (God, Universe, any personal representation of what that may be for you).
And yoga as a way of life means living according to the 8 Limbs so that we can attain this Union and cultivate a state of equanimity.
Most of us are familiar with Limb #3: Asana aka Yoga postures — the physical practice. A yogi’s ultimate aim is to use Asanas, along with the other limbs that outline certain mental & physical practices, observances & restraints — to progress spiritually and live in the most optimal way for a human being to experience true peace, health, and emotional freedom.
The 8 Limbs go in order— each one can guide you to the next but they can also be practiced simultaneously. The last three meditative Limbs #6-8 however, directly progress from one to the other and are a result of practicing the prior limbs.
A Brief Overview of The 8 Limbs of Yoga:
Limb #1: Yamas – Disciplines & restraints (for optimal living)
Limb #2: Niyamas – Positive observances & duties (for optimal living)
Limb #3: Asanas – Poses, physical practice of yoga aka Hatha Yoga.
Limb #4: Pranayama – Breathing practices
Limb #5: Pratyahara – Sense withdrawal from distractions of the outside world
Limb #6: Dharana – Practicing focus on a single point — meditation with effort
Limb # 7: Dhyana – Meditation for long periods — concentrated meditation becomes effortless
Limb #8: Samadhi – Highest state of meditation; oneness; total absorption.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Yoga is such a vast and deep ancient practice, that one can forever remain a student. It’s a science, an art, a philosophy and way of Being. This is why I love yoga — this 5000 year old wisdom tradition is:
Yoga is not a be-all-end all. You can take what you need and if you feel inspired, there’s so much more depth and beauty that lies beneath for you to explore.
In Sanskrit, the word Ashtanga can be translated as: ashta = eight, anga = limbs.
Ashtanga is the classical, eight-fold yoga path that when practiced with discipline, focus and willpower can ultimately lead us to our highest spiritual evolvement and a more blissful, liberated human experience.
I’ll share more on each of the individual 8 Limbs of Yoga in later posts and we’ll go deeper and break it down into simple, applicable concepts in daily & modern life.