"It's possible to live much of your life free from suffering, anxiety and uncertainty. You have the inner power to heal to your maximum potential, turn obstacles into opportunities, and move towards manifesting your fullest potential. You can experience deeper levels of joy, feel more connected, grounded and whole. You have the capacity to free yourself from social conditioning, discover who you truly are, and live as much more liberated and self-expressed being." Bhava Ram
It would be easy to dismiss this premise by Bhava if it weren't for his incredible story of overcoming a broken back, stage four cancer and failed western medicine (as he shares in detail in his memoir Warrior Pose) ~ if it weren't for the fact I wholeheartedly agree! I have been inspired by incredible Yoga Philosophy teachers in my trainings, to name a few Peter Clifford & Clive Salzer, and since then so many more Yogi mentors who truly walk the path of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Over the coming weeks I'll share with you my understanding of each limb and how we can integrate them into modern life, how they can provide much relief from the challenges and stress we unnecessarily burden ourselves with. They are the Yogi's guidebook in taking Yoga off the mat and into every day life.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga are the heart of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, possibly the most relevant text on the science of Yoga written some 2,500 years ago. It still baffles me how relevant their teachings are today. In practising these limbs we live with purpose, achieving clarity and conviction in our day-to-day lives. In this self-mastery lies the pathway to inner-harmony and self-realisation. We reclaim our ability to truly feel, no longer looking to others for our answers. As we practice Asana (poses) on the mat we become more conscious of body and mind, the breath, our hearts, our spirit - experiencing connection. It's in this 'yoking' (meaning of 'Yoga') comes a confidence, a sense of what cannot be destroyed, which is accessible at any time to provide us with the answers we seek. Through the 8 limbs we can take this sense of connection out into our lives and become more conscious of our behaviour in the world. In the practice of mindfulness, compassion, grace, and love through all actions, we learn how instead of letting the outside world impact us, how we can go out into the world and affect others in a positive way. The reward is liberation from our own suffering, and we get to take others on the ride with us!
THE EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA ('ASHTANGA')
YAMA ~ attitudes toward our environment and community - comprising of 5; 'Ahimsa' non-harmful, 'Satya' restraint from lying, 'Asteya' non-stealing, 'Aparigraha' without greed.
NIYAMA ~ attitudes toward ourselves - comprising of 5; 'Saucha' cleanliness, 'Santosha' contentment, 'Tapas' discipline, 'Svadhyaya' self-study, 'Ishvarapranidhana' devotion.
ASANA ~ posture practice - positioning of the body while incorporating breath to achieve greater awareness in the mind.
PRANAYAMA ~ breath control - energising and balancing of the mind-body through the manipulation of breath, our 'Prana' (life-force)
PRATYAHARA ~ sense withdrawal - relaxation and internalisation of the senses in order to activate the mind without external distraction or influence.
DHARANA ~ concentration - developing the ability to focus and hold attention to one object.
DHYANA ~ meditation - prolonged concentration fills the whole consciousness.
SAMADHI ~ ultimate state of realisation - absorbed concentration leads to the 'ecstatic state', the 'awakened state', our liberation.
These limbs are not merely a ladder to climb from 1 though to then get to 8 ~ if that were the case you should know I fall off my ladder a dozen times a day! Modern life creates it's barrage of challenges, with awareness and self-responsibility they're reminders that we are in charge of ourself ~ our energy, who and what we attract, our reactions, therefore every circumstance we find ourselves in. If we don't like them we use the Eight Limbs and we change them. We have the power to change our perception, change how we think and feel, the power to heal is within every one of us. The limbs are perhaps not a goal for perfection, but a discipline of some simple life tools that help me get myself out of my own way so I can enjoy life at it's fullest ~ and that is contagious! The only way to heal our planet, help those we love, is to have a discipline in ourselves. Want to see change, we do it on the inside and watch it create a ripple effect to the outside. The Eight Limbs of Yoga have the power to change everything around us, through us.
I look forward to sharing with you each week one limb at a time as we journey off the mat into every day life.
Yours in Yoga
Namaste, Nic Whiteman