What makes yoga, Yoga?
Have you ever wondered why yoga works and what really goes on in a yoga class that leaves you feeling lighter and brighter?
As you are probably already aware Yoga is a philosophy and as with any type of teaching there is a guide thanks to Patanjali.
Patanjali was a great sage who wrote down the collective knowledge of Yoga at least 1,700 years ago, known as ‘The Yoga Sutras.’
Although Yoga has evolved and changed over the years the practice still follows the same principals recorded by Patanjali way back when, known as ‘The Eight Limbs of Yoga’. The purpose of the eight limbs of yoga is to guide the yogi through the process of the bringing together of body, mind and spirit to union (yoga) and ultimately that of self-realisation/inner peace/consciousness or whatever you want to call it.
What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?
The eight limbs are basically steps that help to guide us to a better way of living through how we relate to ourselves both inwardly and outwardly and to the world. We incorporate these guidelines throughout our yoga practice and eventually the processes begin to seep into our daily lives (which is a good thing).
Eight Limbs of Yoga:
- Yama – Our integrity or ethics of how we relate to others and the environment.
There are five Yamas:
- Non-violence (Ahimsa) do no harm
- Truthfulness (Satya) being honest with yourself and others
- Non-stealing (Asteya) on all levels
- Investing energy wisely (Brahmacharya)
- Non-coveting or non-gripping (Aparigraha) let it go, non-attachment
- Niyama – Our relationship with ourselves.
There are five Niyama:
- Purification (Saucha) of body, mind and spirit
- Contentment (Santosha) let it be
- Self-discipline (Tapas)
- Self-study (Svadhyaya) observation and learning
- Devotion (Ishvara Pranidhana) to Spirit
- Asana (physical postures) – Our relationship with our body.
Through the postures we build strength and flexibility, release tension and purify our body through awareness and acceptance.
- Pranayama (Breath awareness) – Our relationship with our breath or spirit.
The breath is our life force energy, our Prana. Through awareness, measuring, control and the directing of our breath we are able to connect on a deeper level to our emotions, body, mind and spirit to nourish and restore.
- Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal) – Our relationship with our sensory system.
Withdrawal of the senses is where we retreat to our inner world to watch and observe our habits and behaviours. We become what is commonly referred to as the ‘witness’. This is the place of non-judgement, letting go, growth and renewal. You are there simply to observe and learn as with awareness comes the ability surrender, accept and grow.
- Dharana (Concentration) – Our relationship with our mind.
Through concentration or single pointedness on an object we learn to still and focus our mind.
- Dhyana (Meditation) – Beyond the mind.
Meditation is the absorption of the mind for a period of time. It is the connection to our inner world without allowing the disturbances of the outer world to enter.
- Samadhi (Enlightenment) – A higher state of consciousness or awareness.
The ultimate goal of any spiritual practice is enlightenment or inner peace. The union between body, mind and spirit to restore balance within.
So as you can see, Yoga is more than a physical practice. The intricacies of Yoga work on a much deeper level and continue to do so long after you have finished the class. Yoga is a journey! It’s a journey that takes a lifetime as you never stop learning and discovering and unfolding the intricacies of your inner world of what makes you tick and who you are. That is what is so great about the Eight Limbs of Yoga. They don’t judge. They don’t dictate and tell you that you must do this or that. They sit there quietly in the corner waiting to guide you on your life journey. They whisper words of encouragement to help you tackle that next hurdle. They are there to remind you to be loving and kind to yourself, others and to the world. To show you that your body is a temple for your soul to reside in and that we are all connected to Spirit and a part of the whole. They are there as a gentle reminder that your inner world is more important than your outer perceptions. But ultimately the eight limbs of yoga are there to guide us to a place of stillness and ‘Inner Peace,’ that spark of divinity within all of us.
So the next time your yoga class comes to a close and you feel that sensation of lightness and serenity within. Say a silent thank you to the great sage Patanjali for providing the eight limbs of yoga. The yogis’ personal guide for transformation and union of body, mind and spirit to restore balance within.
Enjoy the journey!