The simple definition of yoga is to ‘yoke’ -joining, as in a union. On a practical level, yoga is a means of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind, and emotions.
As yoga is tremendously popular these days, and the one which is considered the most is Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga.
As detailed by Patanjali, this is the structure and the most direct way to still the mind and achieve liberation, truth, and understanding (Samadhi). It is said, ‘The goal is very near for one who practices with intense dedication and supreme consistency. All beings will greatly increase their clarity and concentration by adhering to these practices.’
What Do Eight Limbs Of Yoga Mean?
The eight limbs of yoga are the eightfold path known as Ashtanga (ashta-eight, anga-limb).
The eight limbs of yoga construct a structural framework for yoga practice. These are like steps to yoga. It is believed that the practice of the eight limbs of yoga leads to spiritual realization. The eight-limbed yoga has been described as a way towards enlightenment in The Yoga Sutras.
What is the significance of eight-limbs of yoga?
The eight limbs of yoga are considered as guidelines on how a person can lead a purposeful life. These are like disciplines or steps which lead to the path of enlightenment and towards a meaningful life. The eight-limbed yoga provides completeness to a practitioner with the attainment of divinity and spirituality. These are considered important to attain moksha or Free State of existence.
The eight limbs of yoga are:
1. Yama (moral disciplines)
The Yama is the step which refers to restraints. It is mostly about the don’ts. It is concerned about ethical and moral standards. In general, it is about the treatment you give to others present around you. It follows Universal Morality Codes.
There are five elements that constitute the Yama. These are:
a.) Ahimsa Or Non Violence
Ahimsa is about being compassionate to other creatures in each and every circumstance. It suggests being kind, helpful and friendly to others, even in one’s dreams and thoughts.
b.) Satya or Truthfulness
As the name suggests, this discipline Satya is about being truthful and honest. It is because any communication or thing which is based on untruthfulness and dishonesty leads nowhere.
c.) Asteya Or Nonstealing
This discipline of Yama suggests not to be in possession of anything which does not belong to you. Asteya implies not to take or use anything unless it is given freely. Using or taking something without the permission of the owner is not acceptable and commendable. It is also applicable and non-material things.
d. ) Brahmacharya Or Continence
Many people have this perception that BrahmacharyaJust means not to get married ever. It is generally connected with continence as its sole objective. It is not true. In addition, it also suggests that one should avoid being self-centered and self-absorbed. In a way, it teaches about self-restraint.
e.) Aparigraha Or Noncovetousness
This step is about leaving the greed of materialistic things. According to it, one should take what is necessary to live rather than accumulating or collecting things which are not the necessity.
2. Niyama (positive observances)
Niyama is the step which refers to observance. It includes the practices of self-discipline. It is more about the do’s. In a way, it is the extension of moral and ethical codes of Yama. The Niyama is consists of five elements. These are:
a.) Saucha or Purification
Saucha refers to purification and cleanliness of mind, soul and body. It includes external as well as internal purification. External purification can be achieved by regular ablutions, clean atmosphere, and surrounding. Internal purification means removal of toxins from the body through practicing asanas, pranayama etc. Clean, fresh and healthy food, tidy surrounding, et cetera also come under Saucha. Anger, hatred, greed, pride et cetera are considered as the root cause of impurity.
b.) Santosha or Satisfaction
Santosha refers to contentment or satisfaction. It means to be completely comfortable in what you have in your life. Santosha is about being free from unrequired sufferings, wants, and desires. It teaches to be grateful and thankful for what one has in the life.
c.) Tapas or Asceticism
Tapas or Asceticism refers to self-discipline and willpower. In a way, it is an extension of Santosha. It teaches how a being can attain satisfaction through a strong will and self-discipline. It is about practicing austerity. Tapas requires to practice beyond the comfort zone.
d.) Svadhyaya or self-study
Svadhyaya promotes the study of self. It is generally done with meditation and asanas. It is about examining our conscious and unconscious deeds and moves. It is a way to learn about our flaws which can help us to grow into a better human being.
e.) IshvaraPranidhana or surrender to the divine
Ishvarapranidhana is final niyama. It is about devoting and surrendering to the universe or divine. It teaches to be more open and connected.
3. Asana (posture)
Asana simply refers to a body posture. Being one of the eight limbs of yoga, it prepares the practitioner’s body and mind for the meditation.
4. Pranayama (breathing techniques)
Breathing is a function that human being does voluntarily and involuntarily. In Pranayama, one consciously controls and is aware of its breath. It relaxes mind as well as body to practice asana and meditation.
5. Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
In Pratyahara, one consciously filters the external experiences so that one can enhance internal awareness and see beyond the things. It helps in the attainment of focus and concentration. It is considered as the link between the internal and external aspect of yoga.
6. Dharana (concentration)
Dharna is usually practiced by concentrating on a specific object. It trains the mind to be quiet, stable and focused. Pratyahara helps in practicing Dharana by filtering distractions and disturbances.
7. Dhyana (meditation)
Dhyan refers to contemplation and meditation. It is a state where the practitioner is aware but without focusing intentionally. It is being in the moment which occurs due to Dharna which leads to Dhyana.
8. Samadhi (enlightenment)
Samadhi is the final stage in eight limbs of yoga. It is attributed to ecstasy. It is considered as the unification with the divine. In Samadhi, a person is in the state of deep meditation. In this stage, a person is free from all kinds of illusion and is in a higher state of awareness.
All the Eight-limbs of yoga are interconnected and lead to one another. Eight limbs of yoga is not an easy-going practice and should be practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher.
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