Part of why I love yoga so much is that it isn’t just a physical activity. Once you dive into everything yoga has to offer you never look back. It really is a beautiful journey. I love the personal progress that comes on and off the mat. It has changed me, and my life from the inside out. A total mind, body, and spiritual change. I could go on forever…But, if you’re here, you either are just beginning, or you’re nodding as you read. I am excited to introduce the 8 limbs to you!
What’s the point of the 8 limbs?
One word…Samadhi. This is finding complete unity with yourself. Whatever, that may mean to you is what it is. Everyone probably has a different definition of what Samadhi is to them. If you ask me, I don’t have a way to define it. Almost in the way that love is hard to explain I’d argue.
The first 2 steps (or 10) of the 8 Limbs (or the 8 steps of Patanjali), are my personal favorite.
You can dive deeper into the limbs by self discovery, exploring your practice, and researching more about them. I love to journal things out or pick mantras for the day to help stay on track. The limbs are a guide to help you understand yourself better. We don’t always have to take things too serious. However, they are really fun to learn about and implement into your life.
1.The first limb is called the Yamas, it has 5 steps:
Ahimsa= No Harm
Asteya= To Not Covet
Aparigraha= Circulation of Energy
Brahmacharya= Self Mastery
2.The Nyama’s are our observances and they also have 5 steps:
Saucha= Purity/ Cleanliness
Santosha= Contentment (Present)
Swadyaya= To Study
Ishwara Pranidhana= Surrender/ Symbol of divine. Recognizing your purpose.
3. After the first 2 limbs comes Asana’s or Poses. Patanjali believed that the meditation pose was the only pose in his mind. However, for some sitting still can be a really hard practice within itself. How is one supposed to meditate if they are so concentrated on sitting still? It takes a lot of time to train your body, and mind to get there. With patience Patanjali made poses to prepare your body for meditation. The purpose of all yoga is to eventually make it to meditation and find Samadhi. Yes, union with yourself is what we are after.
4. Pranayama or Energy Control: This one I’m not going to spend a lot of time on. For the fact that you can dive much much deeper, and I’ll save it for another post soon. I really love this section of the limbs. It goes over how we carry, circulate, and release all of our energy called, the 5 Vayus. We tend to store energy within our bodies, it can cause so many more issues that we might never even be aware of. If you are tired, have unclear thoughts, and not feeling your best then this is bad energy control. You weren’t made to feel drained. You were made to feel good, and not just good, but amazing. This is why I am here to feel good every single day. It is up to you to wake your body up and be in charge of what energy goes on. Allowing yourself to make improvements and not just movements, to be the healer, master, and caretaker for yourself. Inhale, make space for all things positive, and exhale anything no longer serving you.
5. Moving onto Pratiahara which means introspection. It is a lifestyle change, not just something to think about for a moment. It’s up to you whether or not you want to implement this into your life or not. It takes on 24/7 throughout your days. Focusing on not reacting to your senses because you have more to run after. This is all about awakening your internal senses instead of focusing what is on the outside. What does this all really mean? You’re going to have to find out for yourself. I still am digesting this everyday, but I believe it gets more clear the more I practice it. Just being aware of the emotions, mentality, and self discovery is really what this is all about. How do you process things internally and disconnect yourself from the outside material world?
6. Dharana or Focus/ Concentration: Imagine you gravitate all in one direction, you are headed to one destination and nothing gets in your way. How would this benefit you? Well, for one you’d get a lot more done, you’d be free of distractions, and your mind would stay clear. This is what we are after in this limb. We want to stay focused and gain clarity within our mind. The reason we get distracted is because we allow ourselves to get off track. Of course, it takes a lot of reminding ourselves at first, but eventually it becomes a beautiful habit. In a yoga class you will practice this with using your Dristi to gain concentration. I encourage you to find your own sort of Dristi within your life and go for the things you’ve been afraid of going after. You hold the power to do whatever you want in this life, now.
7. Dhyana or Meditation: I heard a quote one time that said something along the lines of “when you meditate you are listening to the universe”. I can’t remember if that was the exact quote or just what I got out of it, but it got me thinking. Meditation takes a long time to actually get there, but once you start entering the world of zero thinking. It is amazing the shift that takes place. For me, I become more mentally stable, clear, and aware. I am able to control what thoughts I allow myself to interact with and the ones I immediately dismiss. Thoughts will always take place, but it is up to whether or not you decide to finish the thought and allow mental flow to take place. Patience and practice happens here, and you may have to work on meditation for a very long time before you actually get there. I know I did, and it is totally okay. Consistency is key yogi.
8. Last but absolutely not least is Samadhi. Everything always comes back to this, yes I know. We train our mind, our bodies, and our spiritual self to get here. The goal is to bring your entire being, inside and out, into alignment. We are after love, peace, and joy to fulfill whats within. I’ll let you make the call on what Samadhi is to you, but whatever it is go after it and always be going after it.
Below, I made a fun info-graphic for you to remember them.
I’m in love with self discovery and the idea of helping others achieve it too. I believe in feeling good, doing good, and being good. I look around at the world and others in and sometimes and get sad by their unwillingness to wake up to possibilities of more. Not in a greedy sense, but in a sense of living fully and getting everything they can out of this world. Totally non materialistic. They’re so many offerings that you either pass by each day, or you run after opportunities. Which one do you accept?
It is up to you how you embrace this life fully.