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E is for Eight Limbs of Yoga

“E is for Eight Limbs of Yoga”

Let’s dive into the basics of yoga philosophy.  I won’t get too involved, making a simple chart of the Eight Limbs of Yoga practice, the sub categories, and simple definitions.  Think of this as a progressive practice, each limb leading to the next.  (And remember, these are ancient philosophy teachings dating back thousands of years.)    

1.        Yama-  these are the basic principles of ethics on how we move ourselves through the world.  There are 5 yamas and are as follows:
·         Ahimsa-  non-violence
·         Satya-  truthfulness
·         Asteya-  no-stealing
·         Brahmachayra-  non-excess (traditionally interpreted as celibacy)
·         Aparigraha-  non-greed/ non-attachment
2.       Niyama-  these are the basic principles of how we interact with ourselves, in our inner, personal realm.
·         Saucha-  purity
·         Santosha-  contentment
·         Tapas-  self-discipline
·         Svadhyaya-  self-study
·         Ishvara Pranidhana-  surrender (traditionally to God, but here I’ll state Universe)
3.       Asana-  this is the physical practice of yoga we are most familiar with, the external, outward poses.  There is also much inner work going on in the form of discipline, focus, and effort.

4.       Pranayama-  often translated as “breath control”, these are the many and varied breathing practices that lead to cultivation of Prana, or life-force energy that fills every cell in the body.  This can be practiced on its own or within your asana practice.

5.       Pratyahara-  often translated as “withdrawal of the senses”, and you may experience this through a particularly deep savasana practice or when you experience yourself as a witness to habits and move toward inner growth.

6.       Dharana-  this is translated as concentration.  This is the challenging task of sitting with the many sensations of the mind.  Here you can concentrate on the breath, an image, a mantra or word, or even an object.

7.       Dhyana-  this is the stage of meditation where our observation of thoughts, feelings, and other sensations of the mind are still for some time and we enter a focused state of stillness in meditation.  This is very challenging and may take much practice to achieve. 

8.       Samadhi-  Often translated as “ecstasy” this is the moment of meditation when the yogi leaves the Self behind and rises to unite with the divine, the sacred, and becomes one with the universe.  Some refer to this as enlightenment.  

(This is part of a series of blog installments for the A to Z Challenge.  I will be covering each letter of the alphabet as it applies to the practice of yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry.)

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