When most people think of yoga, they think of a toned, flexible person, whose sole aim in life is to do a handstand.
Yoga is not about being flexible.
True yoga is a lifestyle and the path of a Yogi is that of a seeker.
These eight limbs are steps, a roadmap on the Yogic Path to enlightenment, a path to help you find peace, live your truth and use your energy in a positive way.
The Eight Limbs
Restraints or moral disciplines
These restraints and moral disciplines primarily relate to your interaction with the outside or external world.
There are five Yamas:
Ahimsa - Non-violence
Satya - Truthfulness
Asteya - Non-stealing
Brahmacharya- Right use of energy
Aparigraha- Non- greed or Non- possessivness
Positive observances or duties
Character building positive observances, duties and practices of self-restraint. These relate to your inner self.
There are five Niyamas:
Saucha - Cleanliness or Purity
Santosha - Contentment
Tapas - Self - Discipline, Training your senses
Svadhyaya - Self-study or reflection, inner exploration
Isvarapranidaha - Surrender to a higher power
Physical Postures or Poses
These physical postures invite us to learn focus and discipline. Not pushing yourself to obtain perfection, but more to find the peace and surrender within the asana, to sit within the realm of your personal capability.
Breathwork or breathing techniques
Pranayama consists of breathing techniques, to help us understand the connection between the breath, the emotions and the mind. Breath is lifeforce, when we learn to control the breath, we also learn to control the mind and the emotions.
Withdrawal of your senses
To withdraw your senses from the external world and concentrate on the internal. The beginning of a yoga class is the start of this turning inward and the basis for meditation. Contrary to popular belief, it is not 'switching off' your senses, but withdrawing your focus from that which is outside ourselves and prepare for the next step, Dharana.
Holding or maintaining this focus, be it a mantra, candle-gazing or breath-work are all practices of Dharana. Having something to concentrate on helps us withdraw our senses inward and allows for Dhyana, true meditation.
The breathwork, withdrawing the senses and focus all align and we are able to be aware without a particular focus. When we are truly meditating, we do not think 'I am meditating', by this point of meditation we are not thinking, the mind is still. This state of being allows us to glimpse the Oneness that is Samadhi.
Bliss or Enlightenment
Often referred to as oneness, bliss or Enlightenment, it is also called realisation. The final step on the path. The word Samadhi 'sama'- same or equal and 'dhi' to see, 'to see equal'. Enlightenment (rather than floating away on a cloud) is the realisation that everything is one, this blissful state is one of pure joy and love for all things, of acceptance for things just as they are, without judgement or fear.
The Yogic path is one of truth, love, gratitude and infinite possibility, when embraced; it is truly transformative.
"Yoga is when every cell of the body sings the song of the Soul" B.K.S Lyengar
Next week we will delve further into the Yama's and Niyama's.