The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali refers to 8 limbs of yoga, each of which uses guidance on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. Learn more about everyone and how to include them in your practice.
If that way of thinking does not resonate with you, then think about that the word yoga can likewise mean separation or disentanglement. The important thing we’re disentangling from is whatever stops us from doing not hesitate, as the ultimate goal of any yoga practice is to achieve moksha, suggesting liberation or flexibility.
So how does one tackle attaining this liberty through yoga?
According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is an eight-fold path resulting in liberation, referred to as the ‘Ashtanga Yoga System’ or ‘8 Limbs of Yoga’ (the word ‘ashta’ implies ‘8’ and ‘anga’ means ‘limb’).
The 8 Limbs of Yoga
– YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or ethical promises
– NIYAMA – Positive responsibilities or observances
– ASANA – Posture
– PRANAYAMA – Breathing techniques
– PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal
– DHARANA – Focused concentration
– DHYANA – Meditative absorption
– SAMADHI – Bliss or enlightenment
1. YAMA – concepts of interaction with the external environment.
The first stage is Yama, the universal ethical precepts that underlie all yoga practice, namely, Ahimsa (non-harm), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-appropriation), Brahmacharya (sexual moderation), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
Yoga is a practice of transforming and benefitting every element of life, not simply the 60 minutes invested in a rubber yoga mat; if we can discover to be kind, truthful and utilize our energy in a beneficial method, we will not only benefit ourselves with our practice, however whatever and everybody around us.
2. NIYAMA – principles of interaction with the internal environment.
The 2nd section of the course of yoga is Niyama: 5 rules or concepts of individual behavior.
The second limb, Niyama, normally describes responsibilities directed towards ourselves, but can likewise be thought about with our actions towards the outside world. The prefix ‘ni’ is a Sanskrit verb which means ‘inward’ or ‘within’.
There are five Niyamas: saucha (cleanliness), santosha (satisfaction), tapas (discipline or burning desire or burning of desire), svadhyaya (self-study or self-reflection, and research study of spiritual texts), and isvarapranidaha (surrender to a higher power).
Niyamas are typically practiced by those who wish to take a trip even more along the Yogic course and are planned to construct character. Surprisingly, the Niyamas closely associate with the Koshas, our ‘sheaths’, or ‘layers’ leading from the physique to the essence within. As you’ll observe, when we deal with the Niyamas– from saucha to isvararpranidhana– we are guided from the grossest aspects of ourselves to the truth deep within.
3. ASANA – combining the mind and body through physical activity, postures.
The third area is dedicated to the position of the body is the third step on the path to flexibility, and if we’re being sincere, the word asana here doesn’t describe the capability to perform a handstand or an aesthetically outstanding backbend, it implies ‘seat’– specifically the seat you would take for the practice of meditation. The only alignment guideline Patanjali provides for this asana is “sthira sukham asanam”, the posture needs to be constant and comfy.
While conventional texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika list lots of postures such as Padmasana (lotus present) and Virasana (hero present) appropriate for meditation, this text likewise informs us that the most important posture is, in fact, sthirasukhasana– significance, ‘a posture the specialist can hold comfortably and motionlessness’.
The idea is to be able to bring in comfort so we’re not ‘pulled’ by aches and discomforts of the body, or restlessness due to an uncomfortable position. Perhaps this is something to consider in your next yoga class if you constantly tend to select the ‘innovative’ posture offered, instead of the one your body can attain.
4. PRANAYAMA – control of prana (“vital energy”) through unique breathing practices.
The word Prana describes ‘energy’ or ‘life source’. It can be utilized to describe the real essence that keeps us alive, in addition to the energy in deep space around us. Prana also frequently explains the breath, and by dealing with the method we breathe, we affect the mind in a really real method.
Maybe one of the most fascinating things about Pranayama is the fact that it can imply 2 various things, which may lead us in two various directions at this point on the course to liberty … Pranayama can be comprehended as either ‘prana-yama’ which would indicate ‘breath– control’ or ‘breath restraint’, or it could be comprehended as ‘prana-Ayama’ which would equate as ‘liberty of breath’, ‘breath expansion’ or ‘breath liberation’.
The physical act of dealing with various breathing techniques changes the mind in a myriad of methods– we can choose relaxing practices like Chandra Bhadana (moon piercing breath) or more revitalizing strategies such as Kapalabhati (shining skull cleansing breath).
Each method of breathing will alter our state of being, but it’s up to us as to whether we perceive this as ‘managing’ the way we feel or ‘freeing’ ourselves from the regular method our mind may typically be.
5. PRATYAHARA – the diversion of the senses from contact with their things.
Pratya suggests to ‘withdraw’, ‘draw in’ or ‘drawback’, and the second part ahara refers to anything we ‘take in’ by ourselves, such as the numerous sights, sounds, and smells our senses take in continually. When sitting for a formal meditation practice, this is most likely to be the first thing we do when we think we’re practicing meditation, we focus on ‘attracting’. The practice of drawing inward might consist of concentrating on the way we’re breathing, so this limb would relate straight to the practice of pranayama too.
The phrase ‘sense withdrawal’ might create images of the capability to in fact switch our senses ‘off’ through concentration, which is why this aspect of practice is often misinterpreted.
Instead of losing the ability to hear and smell, to see and feel, the practice of pratyahara changes our state of mind so that we end up being so absorbed in what it is we’re focussing on, that the things outside of ourselves no longer bother us and we can meditate without ending up being quickly sidetracked. Experienced practitioners might be able to translate pratyahara into daily life– being so focused and present to the minute at hand, that things like sensations and noises do not easily distract the mind.
When we practice pratyahara, we consciously “disable” our sense of understanding.
The last 3 stages of yoga and their relationship are obvious.
The capability to stay motionless and keep the mind focused on one object is Dharana or concentration. When concentration ends up being constant and constant, it is called Dhyana or meditation. Meditation is not a “journey” of the mind through the cloudless distances, however, it remains in the present moment, here and now. Only in the state of absolute “presence” can we experience Samadhi: the state of merging with the everlasting source, which is the ultimate goal of yoga practice.
6. DHARANA – Focused Concentration.
Dharana suggests ‘focused concentration’. Dha suggests ‘holding or preserving’, and Ana indicates ‘other’ or ‘something else’. Closely connected to the previous 2 limbs; Dharana and pratyahara are crucial parts of the very same element. To focus on something, the senses should withdraw so that all attention is put on that point of concentration, and to draw our senses in, we need to focus and focus intently. Tratak (candle gazing), visualization, and focusing on the breath are all practices of Dharana, and it’s this stage a number of us get to when we think we’re ‘practicing meditation’.
7. DHYANA – meditation.
The seventh limb is ‘meditation’– when we end up being completely absorbed in the focus of our meditation, and this is when we’re meditating. All the important things we might learn in a class, online or from an instructor are merely techniques offered to each individual to help them settle, focus and concentrate, the real practice of meditation is not something we can actively ‘do’, rather it describes the spontaneous action of something that occurs as a result of everything else. Essentially; if you are practicing meditation, you will not have the idea ‘oh, I’m practicing meditation!’…
8. SAMADHI – Bliss or Enlightenment.
Many of us understand the word samadhi as indicating ‘bliss’ or ‘knowledge’, and this is the final action of the journey of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. After we have re-organized our relationships with the outside world and our inner world, we come to the ending of bliss.
When we take a look at the word samadhi however, we learn that ‘enlightenment’ or ‘realization’ does not refer to drifting away on a cloud in a state of happiness and ecstasy …
Breaking the word in half, we see that this final stage is comprised of two words; ‘sama’ meaning ‘same’ or ‘equivalent’, and ‘dhi’ implying ‘to see’. There’s a reason it’s called realization– and it’s because reaching Samadhi is not about escapism, drifting away or being abundantly joyful; it’s about realizing the very life that depends on front people.
The capability to ‘see equally’ and without disruption from the mind, without our experience being conditioned by likes, dislikes, or habits, without a requirement to judge or end up being attached to any particular aspect; that is bliss.
This stage is not about attaching to joy or experience of ‘bliss’, but instead, it’s about seeing life and reality for precisely what it is, without our thoughts, emotions, likes, dislikes, enjoyment and pain fluctuating and governing it. Not always a state of feeling or being, or a set mindset; just pure ‘I– am-ness’.
There’s simply one catch, however– Samadhi isn’t a long-term state … Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras importantly tell us that unless we are entirely prepared, without ‘impressions’ such as attachment, aversion, desires, and habits, and with an entirely pure mind, we will not have the ability to keep the state of Samadhi for long.
As soon as the mind is pure and we do experience a state of Samadhi we can keep hold of, we attain moksha, also referred to as Mukti, implying a permanent state of being freed, launched, and free.