The Eight Limbs of Yoga
Yoga refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines originating in India. It focuses upon developing a healthy mind and body, and on attaining self-awareness. The various practices and disciplines of yoga are available to everyone, no matter what their culture or other paths they may follow. Yoga practice also involves developing awareness on a universal and personal level through the yamas and niyamas, a series of ethics and disciplines intended to cultivate living in harmony with others and in oneness with our true selves.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and consists of ancient theories, observations and principles regarding the connection of the mind with the body. The ancient Indian sage systemized yoga philosophy into eight paths or limbs: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi. These limbs each express a different aspect of yoga and combined make up the path or yoga practice that unites the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels of our being.
Yama – Yama are ethical disciplines that relate to how we can live in a shared world with peace and integrity.
Niyama – These disciplines relate to the individual and focus on living a healthy, fulfilled and masterful life.
Asana – The word asana means ‘to be’, in the sense of being in a posture. The asanas were developed for the maintenance of a healthy mind and body, with each posture affecting the body, mind and emotions in a unique way and working as a pathway to balance and wellbeing.
Pranayama – In the practice of pranayama, we develop breathing techniques that increase oxygen intake and strengthen lung capacity while also increasing the absorption of prana, or life force. In its simplest form, pranayama involves deep, full breathing.
Dharana – Following on from pratyahara, dharana is the ability to be completely internally absorbed and focused. This practice of single-pointed concentration stills the mind and leads to profound quietness within.
Dhyana – Following on from dharana is dhyana, or meditation – sitting where there is no focus, just stillness; no thoughts, only emptiness.
Samadhi – In this state of absolute personal freedom there is union of the individual soul with the universal soul. It is the practice of living at one with all that is.
With regular yoga practice of yoga, you will get strength, flexibility and good health, the benefits of which flow into all aspects of life. Increased energy levels bring a new perspective on life, the increased feelings of self-love and inspiration lead us to discover talents and interests we never knew existed and problems that once seemed overwhelming become more manageable.
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