The 8 limbs of yoga or Patangali’s 8-folded path is one of contemporary yoga’s favorite sources of inspiration on how to live a balanced and fulfilled life. It’s guide on how to connect with our higher selves, how to shift our focus on physical and mental health and wellbeing and how to become tuned in to our true nature.200 hr Yoga Teacher Training
Many of us are drawn to yoga because of its physical benefits, however, it’s usually the mental and spiritual aspects of the practice that create the most powerful transformation within us. When we practice yoga we begin to use the mind and body in coherence, we start to behave and feel differently, we are able to manage our emotions better, improve our relationships and tune into our inner wisdom and intuition.
A 200 hour yoga teacher training course is one of the most powerful ways to experience this transformation; even if you don’t plan to become a yoga teacher it is a deep dive into these ancient philosophies and a way to connect deeply with yourself to spark positive changes in your health, happiness, relationships and career.
So what are Patangali’s 8 limbs and how can we apply them to our modern lives?
Patangali divided the principles of yoga into 8 limbs: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi:
The first limb – Yama deals with ethical standards, personal conduct and the idea of treating others the way you wish to be treated. Yama is separated into five aspects: Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (abstinence) Aparigraha (non-covetousness). In a modern context we can apply these principles into our daily interactions, in the way we conduct ourselves, the way we treat other people and the moral codes that we live by. By simply treating others in the same way we wish to be treated, living with honesty and integrity and adopting a karmic view of life. Naturally when we begin to incorporate yoga into our lives, we start to adopt more patience, compassion and understanding for ourselves and others. The more time we spend on the mat the easier these principles become to incorporate in our daily life.
The second limb Niyama deals with self-dicipline and spiritual observances. The five niyamas are: Saucha (cleanliness) Samtosa (contentment), Tapas (heat; spiritual austerities) Svadhyaya (study of sacred scriptures and one’s self) Isvara pranidhana (surrender to God). In a modern context we can apply this principle to the act of creating sacred time in our day, time to meditate, journal, go for walks in nature or just be alone with ourselves, acknowledging the importance for quiet time and reflection and creating the space in our lives for self-care and reflection.
The third limb Asana is the physical postures practiced in yoga, the view that the body is a temple and that caring for the body is paramount in spiritual growth. Through the practice of asanas we can develop discipline and the ability to concentrate and hold postures for extended periods of time. Asanas prepare the body for meditation and stillness and is a very powerful way to create body/mind coherence. Creating a regular personal practice either by attending classes or practicing on your own, taking care of your body, paying attention to what you eat and how much you exercise are great ways to integrate this limb into daily life.
Pranayama is the fourth limb and loosely translated means breath control. this limb recognizes the connection between the breath, the mind and the emotions and acknowledges the breath as life force energy. Simply by shifting the breath from the chest to the belly for a few moments a day can have a huge impact on how you feel mentally and physically. Naturally most of us only breathe into our chest, this activates our sympathetic nervous system causing us to feel anxious and stressed. When we begin to breathe consciously, lengthening the inhale and the exhale breath we start to activate the para-sympathetic nervous system switching off our fight-and-flight response and settling the body into rest-and-digest mode. Pranayama can be used by itself or in conjunction with asana and meditation, it can be used at any time during the day to bring the focus back into the present moment, to bring the body into stillness and to calm the mind.
Pratyahara, the fifth limb – withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. We can integrate this limb into our meditation practice by allowing any thoughts or outside influences float by without attachment or attention. Allowing ourselves to be quiet and still during our meditation and focus our mind solely on the present moment is one of the best ways to practice this limb and can help us to create more calm, stillness and clarity in our lives for you .
Dharana or concentration is Patanjali’s the sixth limb of yoga, In this limb the practitioner is invited to focus on a single point of focus such and a body part or an image in the mind. In this limb we can direct our full attention to one specific thing during meditation and create more focus and stillness into our practice. A more accessible way to do this in regular practice is to call to mind an intention during yoga practice such as a word or a mantra, when we feel our
mind start to drift off we can bring ourselves back into the moment by bringing the word or phrase back into the forefront of our mind.
The seventh limb Dhyana is similar to the sixth but is more of an active meditation, directing the focus on a specific object such as a leaf or a flower. This meditation practice can help keep the mind focused and present in the moment, it can help create clarity and connection with nature.
Patanjali describes the eighth and final stage of ashtanga, samadhi, as a state of ecstasy. At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the Self altogether. This stage is predominantly a spiritual experience but can usually be achieved during a full immersion course such as a teacher training or intensive yoga course.
Understanding and applying the 8 limbs of yoga into our daily lives can have a profound effect on our mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing, when we become tuned into the body and mind, we can begin see positive changes in our relationship with ourselves and others. Yoga not only has a powerful effect on our physical wellbeing but our spiritual and mental experience too. Patanjali’s 8 limbs can be used as a framework to guide us through our yoga practice and to help create a better relationship with our body and mind. Whether you are new to yoga or an experienced practitioner the 8 limbs are a beautiful addition to your yoga practice and to your life .and to your daily life alike
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