The eight limbs of yoga are the core essence to the practice that is sweeping the nation and it’s been around for over 5000 years. There is more to yoga than simply doing asana (poses) for fitness. Yoga is a workout for the entire self, physical, mental and soul self. It is intended to be transformational for self-realization.
Yoga is a PRACTICE designed to blend into your self care routine provided to give you knowledge about yourself.
The practice of yoga is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit. Its objective is to assist you in using the breath and body to foster an awareness of ourselves as individualized beings intimately connected to the unified whole of creation. In short, it is about making balance and creating equanimity so as to live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole. Peace is relative to inner peace and calm (distressing).
This art of right living was practiced in India thousands of years ago and the foundations of yoga philosophy were rewritten by Patanjali known as The Yoga Sutras. Patanjali rewrote the Yoga Sutras around 200 AD. This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an eight-step blueprint for controlling its restlessness to enjoying lasting peace. The sutras are written like scriptures, easy to understand to gain insight to the matter of the mind and body.
The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus, which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine. Because we are all uniquely individual a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding.
In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows:
1. Yama : Universal morality; Moral Obligations/Social Behavior
2. Niyama : Personal/Daily observances
3. Asanas : Proper Body postures/poses
4. Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana (breath)
5. Pratyahara : Control of the senses. Withdrawal of senses from external objects.
6. Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
8. Samadhi : Union with the Divine – Self Realization
There are many facets and layers to the phenomenon called Yoga in which you can draw from to enhance your own vital life force and well being.
These eight steps of yoga indicate a logical pathway that leads to the attainment of physical, ethical, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga does not seek to change the individual; rather, it allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality moving in action with mindfulness awareness from the higher self to do good for own self and others.
The Essence of Yoga, Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Bernard Bouanchaud