Yoga is much more than just twisting your body into complex positions. The great yoga Patanjali defined yoga as having eight parts or limbs that define the practice of yoga. While it is great that the practice of one of these limbs is popular world wide, there is much more to yoga that can greatly help people’s lives with a way of living that benefits you and everyone you meet.
The first two limbs are about right livelihood, basically a moral code of behaviour. At its essence is the ideal of treating others well. The practice is to do your best within your own standards of how you treat those you meet in your life.
Like all aspects of yoga, your personal standard will evolve as you see how your actions, and even your thoughts, affect those around you. It is those that you cherish the most that will give you the most reflection on how to best treat everyone.
The third limb is yoga postures. The subject is widely taught with various methods and techniques that are as individual as the postures that are practiced, and those that practice. It would be impossible to expound fully on everything related to yoga postures, but there are depths to the practice that will be written about in the future.
The fourth limb is pranayama. Prana is the life energy that is involved in movement. Yama means restraint. While the deep meaning is far far greater, the common translation is breathing practices. The beginning of the deeper meaning is any practice that causes the life energy to be developed, and restrained in the body.
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The fifth limb is withdraw from the senses, or pratiharya. A loose example of this is when you are falling asleep, almost asleep, and the sounds that enter your consciousness seem distant and almost alien. There are relaxation techniques that can guide you to the beginning of this state which will be available soon.
Concentration is the sixth limb. Again, the meanings in yoga have depths of understanding. On the simplest level it can be thought of as focusing attention, for example focusing on academic studies, work or a project. Concentration can develop to the point that distractions cease to be an issue.
Once distractions are completely unable to break your focus you can be said to have achieved meditation; the seventh limb of yoga. It takes unbroken focus to find your way to the Truth whether that is the truth of what you are trying to learn, achieve, or a True experience of the Absolute.
The eighth limb is union with that which you are meditating on. This can only happen with Divine Grace. With study finally understanding the depth of your studies is relatively simple, but the ecstasy of Union with the Absolute only happens with a leap of faith into the Divine. It is a break from the normal that is so profound that the mind is left without purchase.
Enlightenment is one example of this deep experience. In deep meditation the yogini experiences Union, or samadhi, daily, often several times a day. It is the means of eliminating desire leaving the practitioner without a purchase to the world and life.
Obviously there is a lot more that can be said about the extensive subject of yoga. Coming from a steady state of samadhi Patanjali was able to consolidate the practice into less than 200 sutras. While full understanding of this scripture can only come with the same depth of experience, the path is laid out in this seemingly simple work.
More and more depth will be discovered as the yogini practices and grows. The deeper your experience, the deeper your understanding will be. In the future we will explore more of the depths of Yoga and how you can find peace and harmony that anyone can experience.
When practiced holistically, yoga becomes a way of life that can make your life much more rewarding. And, you can be an inspiration to others just through your presence. Practicing yoga poses has many benefits, while the whole of yoga is a path to liberation.