Ashtanga Yoga - Description of the 8 Limbs of Yoga / Understand the Basics of your Yoga Practice
I hope this article will give you a better understanding of the practice of Yoga;
Why we do the practice?
What are our aspirations each time we step on our mats?
Are we supposed to achieve perfection of the postures or are we learning something more profound in the imperfect pose?
Can I still do the practice, even if I don't look like those models doing perfect poses on social media? - Definitely, Yes!
The term Ashtanga means the 8 limbs of Yoga practice, to help strengthen the Body, purify the Pranic flow, refine the Breathing patterns, develop the capacity of the mind to focus into Meditation.
This whole system originates from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which provide a structural framework for the practice of Yoga.
This is the Foundation of every type of Yoga Practice today.
The 8 Limbs are:
- Yama - External Conduct practices; this deals with one's ethical standards and sense of integrity
- Niyama - Internal Conduct practices; deals with self-discipline and spiritual awareness
- Asana - Yoga Postures; Mindful movements to prepare the body for Meditation
- Pranayama - Mindful breathing ; Breathing practices to gain mastery with the connection between mind, body & breath
- Pratyahara - Drawing in the sensory stimulations; conscious effort to draw awareness inward from external stimuli
- Dharana - Deepening the Mindful connection to Presence; learn to slow down the thinking process by focusing on a single object
- Dhyana - Connecting to the Source of Grace within; practicing uninterrupted flow of concentration
- Samadhi - Experiencing the Oneness of Being
Let's try to understand a few details about each of these Limbs of Yoga
Five Yamas : focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life.
Five Niyamas : Regularly attending temple or church services, saying grace before meals, developing your own personal Meditation practices, or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of Niyamas in practice.
Tapas: heat; spiritual austerities
Svadhyaya: study of the sacred scriptures and of one's self
Ishvara pranidhana: surrender to God
Asana Practice : The Asanas are used to care and nurture the physical body. Through the practice of asanas, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation.
Pranayama : You can practice pranayama as an isolated technique ; sitting and performing a number of breathing exercises, or integrate it into your daily Hatha yoga routine.
Pratyahara : It's during this stage that we make a conscious withdrawal of the sensory stimuli into an inner awareness. This practice allows us to learn about our habits, opinions and become cognizant if they are helpful or detrimental to our progress.
Dharana : In this stage, the attention of the mind can be harnessed deeper to focus on an inner point, either on an energy center / Chakra, an image of a Diety/Ishta Devata or on the silent repetition of a Sacred Sound / Mantra.
Dhyana : This is the stage of uninterrupted Flow of Consciousness, being keenly aware without a focus. To arrive at this stage, one has to practice with dedication & patience :)
Samadhi : This is the final stage of the Spiritual Warrior; the stage of achieving the connection between being Human & Divine at the same time.
Quite a lofty goal for most of us!! But, we can hold this as a beacon for inner growth & spiritual connection as we practice every single time on the mat.
My deep wish is :
for You to absorb this knowledge; understand the Wisdom of this system of self-care;
and apply these principles to your Yoga practice, next time you step on your mat :)