8 limbs of yoga from Patanjali’s yoga sutra help us live in a flow of right action, constantly check in, and seek alignment with spiritual consciousness and awareness. Also called the basic blueprint of yoga, it is designed to help practitioners ease suffering and live more disciplined and purposeful lives.
Most people who are new to the world of yoga aren’t aware of the 8 limbs of a yoga tree. That’s why Ekattva decided to shed light on the 8 limbs of yoga and talk about all its critical aspects.
Implementing & incorporating the 8 yoga limbs into your everyday life will help figure out what a yogic lifestyle is all about and learn how to live the philosophy of yoga.
Here are details behind each of the 8 limbs of yoga and how to practice them in your daily life:
The first limb of the 8 limbs of the yoga tree is Yama: the moral, ethical, and spiritual discipline to attain balance, health, and well-being, leading to spiritual development. Yama is broken into 5 ethical guidelines:
Following are the ways to implement & incorporate Yama into your life:
By following the above methods, you will successfully be able to incorporate the first limb out of 8 limbs of a yoga tree in your life.
The second limb, Niyama, is all about self-discipline. It deals with implementing a set of rules, activities, and habits for healthy living, spiritual enlightenment, and a liberated state of existence. Niyamas are the five codes to observe in your personal behavior. Following are the guidelines for personal disciplines:
Here are the guidelines to incorporate & implement Niyama, the second limb out of 8 limbs of a yoga tree:
Following these guidelines, you will be able to implement the second limb of 8 limbs of yoga in your life.
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The third and best-known limb of yoga is Asana or physical practice. People often mistake it for the yoga itself, but in reality, it is just a piece of a larger yogic puzzle. Asanas are the movements and pose that we perform during yoga class. Their purpose is to prepare your mind for meditation.
Patanjali, the founder of 8 limbs of yoga, believed that an individual’s body must be strong and without strain to perform proper meditation. We recommend you to perform asana for at least 15-30 minutes a day to deepen your connection. You could also perform a few yoga stretches at your desk during the lunch break!
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By performing Asanas, you will advance through the 8-limbed yoga path and move into and hold long-seated meditation poses with more ease.
Pranayama is the fourth limb of the 8-fold path of yoga. It is also known as breath, as well as the method using which we can control and direct the energy of the breath. In other words, taking deep focused, and rhythmic inhalations and exhalations are a practice of pranayama, the fourth limb of yoga.
Pranayama is vital to living in a yogic lifestyle as it encourages peacefulness, relaxation, and aids in meditation. When your body is strong, flexible, and mobile you will be able to breathe with more ease.
There are several benefits of performing pranayama:
Incorporating and implementing the fourth limb of the 8 yoga limbs (paths) into our daily life is pretty easy. One can practice pranayama while standing in line at the grocery store. It involves breathing in slowly and deeply for 6 counts, holding for 2-3 counts, and slowly exhaling for 8 counts.
Pranayama can also be practiced by joining breathing and pranayama classes at a Yoga Alliance certified school like Ekattva Yogashala.
After working through the first four limbs, you are ready to venture inward and enhance your inner landscape. The fifth limb of the 8 limbs is Pratyahara. It refers to the disconnection of an individual from his senses. In other words, it is all about shifting your focus away from external chaos.
With so much going on in the world coupled with constantly increasing coronavirus cases and buzzing cell phones, this is no easy feat but it is essential for living your best life. Practicing Pratyahara will withdraw all your senses from external stimuli so you can become aware of your internal environment.
Pratyahara involves awareness and reflection, Mudras (body/hand gestures), and Bandhas (energetic body locks). Implementing and incorporating the fifth limb of yoga might seem abstract, but it is quite simple. Practicing Pratyahara acquires you to be less affected by external forces that are out of control.
For instance, while heading to your studio, you can turn off your phone which is one of the external forces, and practice for an hour. By turning off your reaction to an external stimulus, you will be able to better move towards spiritual mastery.
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Once you’ve mastered blocking all the external stimuli with the fifth limb, you can take things to the next level by implementing the sixth limb of yoga, Dharana. Better known as concentration, it involves the singular holding of one thought or focus in the mind, meditating on breath, or chanting a mantra repeatedly with deep focus and concentration.
Dharana is not easy and requires you to practice it again and again in order for it to click. To get a grip of this limb out of 8 yoga limbs, you need to follow these steps:
Set a timer for at least 3 minutes and then gradually work up your way up to 10-20 minutes, twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. It will make you able to react, both internally and externally, calmly, and peacefully to the things that happen in your life. For instance, your colleague getting the promotion instead of you, your car breaking down, or your partner forgetting your anniversary again.
The seventh out of 8 limbs of yoga is where your practice and benefits of meditation and pranayama begin to shine through. Dhyana which is interpreted as a meditation involves a state of quietness of mind, with little to no mental interruptions from the outside world.
In dhyana, you will flow with the awareness of your focal point and become able to contemplate the focus without attachment or judgment. This is a difficult limb to master. A lot of meditators, be it experienced or non-experienced, fails to access this state.
But this doesn’t mean you should stop trying! Using all the discipline, strength, and control over life-force gathered from the Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, and Dhyana, you can achieve this limb with time, patience, and dedication.
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Samadhi is the 8th limb of yoga. By reaching this point of the yoga tree, you are ready to achieve the ultimate bliss and a deep and everlasting connection to the divine source which was always present. The inward yoga journey will take you so deep that it becomes both inward and outward; you will become one and will be divine, one with all.
Tranquil union and bliss will completely absorb you. It will liberate yourself from the ego, the monkey mind, all the desires & fantasies, and live in cosmic connection with the source. In simple words, it is the stage of enlightenment, the ultimate goal of your yoga practice.
You can simply implement and incorporate this limb by noticing your joy and circumstances that allow you to be in that state of being.
Above are the 8 limbs of yoga. Consciously applying them throughout each day, to the best of your ability will lead you to a higher quality of life. Also, once you have a basic understanding of the 8 limbs of the yoga tree, it becomes easy for you to roll yourself in extreme yoga teacher training practice. Just make sure to be gentle and pace yourself as you will work with many lifetimes of ancient yogic knowledge!
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