The practice of Yoga does not only focus on physical postures to improve the body, but deals with all the aspects of our being and our lives. C.E., Patanjali who is considered the father of Modern Yoga compiled 195 aphorisms which are called the Yoga Sutra. In the Yoga Sutra, he described the eight aspects of a Yogic Lifestyle and called it the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The limbs are practical guides to a person’s personal development to achieve the harmony of the mind, the body and the spirit which leads to Samadhi or enlightenment. We can all benefit from respecting and practicing these fundamental and honorable qualities. Whether you are a devoted and regular practicing yogi or simply one who aspires to improve the quality of your life and those around you on your own terms – there is something here for all beings to embrace on a daily basis. We all want to be better, do better, live better and ultimately find a reasonable inner peace.
Yama is your attitude towards others and the world around you. There are five Yamas:
Ahimsa or non-violence. This Yama does not only mean not doing harm to others in thought and in deed, but also to practice acts of kindness to other creatures and to one’s own self.
Satya or truthfulness. Satya is the Yama that is about living a truthful life without doing harm to others. To practice Satya, one must think before he speaks and consider the consequence of his action. If the truth could harm others, it might be better to keep silent.
Asteya or non-stealing. This Yama is not only concerned about the non-stealing of material objects but also the stealing of other’s ideas and other forms of possession. Using power for selfish motives or telling someone else about confidential information you had been entrusted with is against Asteya.
Bramacharya or non-lust. Bramacharya means to move toward the essential truth or to achieve self-control, abstinence or moderation especially regarding to sexual activity. It is about not giving in to our ego’s excessive desires or taking nothing in excess.
Aparigraha or non-possessiveness. This Yama is about living a life free from greed or taking only what is necessary and do not take advantage of someone or of a situation. It is about using our powers correctly and appropriately and not exploiting others.
Niyama is how you treat yourself or your attitude towards yourself. The following are the five Niyamas:
Sauca or cleanliness. This Niyama is concerned on both the outer and inner cleanliness. The practice of pranayamas, asanas and Yogic cleansing practices to detoxify and cleanse the physical body are necessary to achieve inner cleanliness. The mind must also be kept clean or pure. Outer cleanliness, on the other hand, means to keep an clean environment or surroundings.
Santosha or contentment. Santosha is to practice humility, modesty and finding contentment with what you have and who you are.
Tapas or austerity. This Niyama refers to keeping the body in good condition. Tapas is practiced through disciplining the body, speech and mind like eating only when hungry and maintaining a good posture.
Svadhyaya or study of the sacred text and of one’s self. This involved studying one’s self, self-inquiry and self-examination and other things that can help you get to know yourself more. As your knowledge about yourself grows deeper, so is your connection to the higher power and your union with all things.
Isvarapranidhama or living with an awareness of the Divine. This Niyama encourages us to let go of our false sense of control and to connect to the Divine or that which gives us the sense of wholeness and sacredness.
Asanas or Physical Poses
The Asanas are designed to free our mind and body from tension and stress. It relaxes, rejuvenates, and energizes the body and aims to bring the body and the mind into a harmonious union. Asanas should be done with comfort, ease, alertness and steadiness, achieving a balance between ease and effort.
Pranayama or Breathing Exercises
Pranayama is the control of breath. The breath is regulated and controlled through the practice of breathing exercises. The duration of inhalation, retention, and exhalation of breath is regulated with the aim of strengthening and cleansing the nervous system and increasing a person’s source of life energy. Pranayama practice also makes the mind calmer and more focused.
Prathayara or Withdrawal of the Senses
This occurs during meditation, pranayama or asana wherein you are so focused and immersed on your Yoga, Meditation or Breathing Pose that you become unaware of outside situations. Your focus becomes inward and you are no longer distracted by outside events.
Dharana or Concentration
Dharana is training the mind to focus without any distraction. To achieve this, you can focus your mind into an object at a time. This can also serve as a preparation for meditation.
Dhyana or Meditation
Meditation is the practice by which there is constant observation of the mind. It means focusing the mind on one point, stilling the mind in order to perceive the Self. It is an uninterrupted flow of concentration aimed to heighten one’s awareness and oneness with the universe. It is also an important tool to achieve mental clarity and Health.
Samadhi or Enlightenment
This is the ultimate goal of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. It is characterized by the state of ecstasy and the feeling that you and the universe are one. It is a state of peace and completion, awareness and compassion with detachment.
The practice of Yoga does not only deal with developing the body but also covers all the aspect of a person’s life as stated in the Eight Limbs of Yoga. It is concerned about the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of an individual as well as his environment and relationship with other creatures. Real practice of these eight principles leads to deeper self-knowledge, love and respect towards other people and creatures, cleaner environment, healthy diet, and union with the Divine.