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April 18, 2011

8 Limbs of Yoga: The Basics

Yoga as most of us are familiar,  involves asanas, or postures. For many, this one element of true yoga is enough. We make the effort to practice consistently, for whatever reasons (as Brian would say, any reason is a good reason to practice yoga!), and then we continue through our day feeling energized, healthy, happy, balanced, and proud of our posture. 

For others, the physical practice of yoga is just the tip of the iceberg. According to The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, a fundamental guide for living with a cultivated body, mind, and spiritual awareness, there are 8 limbs to yoga. This ancient text was written in India between 200 B.C and 200 A.D. by the super cool ancient and revered physician, Pantajali.

These 8 limbs of yoga, or ashtanga (ashta= eight and anga=limb) yoga (to unite) are intertwined with each other like branches of a tree. 

The Basics:

1. Yama:
In a nutshell: Guidelines of how we morally interact with each other
  • Ahimsa: Nonviolence
  • Satya: Truthfulness
  • Asteya: Nonstealing
  • Brahmacharya: Nonlust
  • Aparigraha: Noncovetesness 

2. Niyama:
In a nutshell: Guidelines of how we morally interact with ourselves.
  • Saucha: Cleanliness
  • Santosa: Contentment
  • Tapas: Sustained practice
  • Svadhyaya: Self study
  • Isvara pranidhana: Surrender to God
3. Asana:
In a nutshell: Practice of yoga postures.

4. Pranayama:
In a nutshell: Practice of breathing exercises.

5. Pratyahara:
In a nutshell: Practice of bringing the awareness to reside deep within oneself

6. Dharana:
In a nutshell: Concentration of the mind free of external (noises) or internal (useless thoughts) distractions.

7. Dhyana:
In a nutshell: Meditation.

8. Samadhi:
In a nutshell: Bliss. Aka: enlightenment.

At this point, even I am a little overwhelmed. But don’t worry. By the time you have a chance to wrap your head around all this, I’ll be discussing each of these (really interesting) branches of yoga individually, and how to easily incorporate them into your daily lives (if you decide to).


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