The 8 Limbs of Yoga

There is more to yoga than just the physical practice or asana.  The yoga boom has instilled us with the perspective that yoga will get us the body we want but often lacks the other aspects of yoga.  Let’s take a look at the 8 Limbs of Yoga and how we can start to incorporate them into our lives.
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Yama represents the universal morality.  There are five yamas. They are
ahisma  or compassion, often referred to as non-harming, satya or truthfulness, asteya do not steal, brahmachyra  or control of the senses, aparigraha or non covetousness.

Incorporate it – Pick out a new yama each week and focus on it.

Niyama  is personal observances.  There are five of them and they are: sauca or cleanliness, santosa  is contentment, tapas the direction of our energy, mindfulness is a good example of a tapas, svadhyaya or contemplation, and isvarapranidhana or devotion to the divine.

Incorporate it – Focus on a niyama for a week.

 Asana is the physical practice of yoga and the one we have the most exposure to.  It will detox you, create strength and flexibility, calm, release, and increase circulation to name a few things.

Incorporate it – practice 3 to 5 times a week.  Even a short practice will make a difference.

Pranayama is the expansion of the life force via the breath.  Negative emotions often rear up when starting to learn pranayama.  This practice will help you control your mind and emotions.

Incorporate it – When feeling stressed focus on long deep breathing.  Want something more formal?  Sit for five minutes and focus on the breathe.

 Pratyahara is the control of the senses.  We become used to the barrage of information that we constantly receive from hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, and touching.  This aspect helps us not to be distracted by them.

Incorporate it –  Sit quietly and let thoughts and sensations occur.  Acknowledge them and let them go. This technique is simple yet powerful.

Dharana is focus or concentration.  Another way to think of it is will power and the more you develop it the stronger it will get.

Incorporate it – Sound is an easy way to start pick out a mantra or affirmation.  On of my favorites is Sat Nam, truth is your identity.

Dyhana is meditation or total absorption.  Meditation is where tuning into the divine really starts. We become more who we are and integrated into the universe.

Incorporate it –  After asana practice sitting in stillness and letting the mind quiet, let it nurture and renew you.

Samadhi is transcendence or union with the divine.  This is the ultimate attainment of yoga, the divine union.  It also makes me think of the saying, “before enlightenment chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment chop wood and carry water.”

Incorporate it – Use savasana, relaxation pose to learn how to surrender and let go.  Be at peace and at one with everything and everyone.

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