The 8 Limbs of Yoga
Yoga is a science designed to take you on the path to truly experiencing your true Self. Yoga means to yoke oneself with the divine. Its getting to that place where you can experience yourself as pure energy, connected with the energy of the divine/universe.
You may have heard of the 8 limbs of yoga, the path of yogic practices that lead you to this ultimate place. They start with focusing on how you live your life and build on that with practices that enable you to experience your energetic self and, eventually, to meditate, experiencing yourself as part of the divine. The eight limbs of yoga are:
- Yamas These are external ethics for living a yogic life. They include Ahimsa non-harming, Satya truthfulness, Asteya non-stealing, Brahmacharya unity, or right use of energy and Aparigraha simplicity/non-grasping.
- Niyamas These are internal ethics for leading a yogic life. They include: Saucha clarity/purity, Santosha contentment, Tapas discipline and sacrifice for others, Svadyaya self-study and Ishvara Pranidhana surrender and service to something bigger.
- Asana The physical practice of poses. Originally, all asanas where seated and focused on building strength for long meditations. Now we have all kinds of flowing asana practices that are healthful for the body and teach us to marry breath and form. Never forget, however, that asana practice is a stepping stone and not the end goal.
- Pranayama Breath practice. Through pranayama we learn to experience our breath/energy and to control it through bandhas (breath locks). Breath practices are great for our physcial health and also take us closer to the pranic, or energetic, formless Self.
- Pratyhara The closing off of the senses. We learn to draw within, closing off our sight, hearing, feeling, smelling and taste. We go from thinking and doing to being and feeling.
- Dharana The ability to concentrate. This is the first stage of meditation: cultivation of the ability to concentrate and start to still the chatter of the mind. Mantras, yantras and other aids have been created for this purpose.
- Dyhana The ability to glimpse the Self. At this point, the gaps between our thoughts begin to lengthen and as they do, in those gaps, we loose ourselves in meditation. We lose sense of time and its not until we come out of meditation that we realize we reached this place. We glimpse our soul, or Self.
- Samadhi Total absorption. We are absorbed in our own energy and the divine energy of which we are a part. We are unaware of ourselves as separate from that divine energy and unaware we are meditating.
Yoga Nidra enables you to focus on steps 5 – 8, harnessing prana, focusing, quieting the mind and even dropping into states of samadhi. Through this beautiful form of guided meditation the brain begins to still (you actually drop to the delta and theta brainwave states where the brain is extremely quiet) and you can ‘drop in’ more easily. You can truly begin to experience your true Self and derive the full benefit for which yoga was created. Yoga Nidra is a core component of a personal yoga practice.