Updated: Jul 20, 2020
For those unable to attend class this week, you can join us live or rewatch the recording training on your own time.
Use the link or meeting id below to join.
Meeting ID: 912 4362 3768
9:00am-10:00am: 60 Minute Flow with Derrick
10:05-10:30: Writing Exercise and Discussion
10:30-12:00: The 8 Limbs of Yoga
12:00-12:30: Lunch Break
12:30-2:00: Practice Teaching
The Yoga Sutra, widely regarded as the authoritative text on yoga, is a collection of aphorisms (general truths), outlining the eight limbs of yoga. These "threads" (as sutra translates from Sanskrit) of wisdom offer guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life.
The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali are a collection of 196 Sanskrit sutras on the theory and practice of yoga. The Yoga Sutras were compiled sometime between 500 BCE and 400 CE by the sage Patanjali in India who synthesized and organized knowledge about yoga from much older traditions.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
When most people envision yoga they probably imagine spandex clad people twisting themselves into crazy positions, but in reality yoga is a complete philosophical system. This system is divided into eight limbs in order to guide a practitioner to a state of total bliss or enlightenment. Each limb has a different focus starting with ways to live life more ethically and ending with deep concentration and total realization. Though this might sound like an ambitious path, the eight limbs can be incorporated into daily life in order to enrich and expand our consciousness.
Yama- The five Yamas are a set of moral, ethical, and societal guidelines used by yogis to guide their actions. Patanjali, the author of The Yoga Sutras considered the Yamas as great universal vows or the ultimate description of a practitioner who is totally absorbed in a state of yoga. The Yamas teach us how to live with compassion and empathy in order to sustain a more fulfilled and satisfying life. The Yamas remind us to be cautious of our thoughts, actions, and speech bringing us into a continued state of mindfulness.
The five Yamas are:
1. Ahimsa: Non-Violence
2. Satya: Truthfulness
3. Asteya: Non-Stealing through action, speech and thoughts.
4. Brahmacharya: Continence/Self-Restraint
5. Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness
Niyama- Niyama is the second limb and refers to personal observances. Niyama can refer to any activity or ritual you consider special or sacred. This limb is heavily associated with personal discipline because it requires us as practitioners to develop and practice personal observances in order to develop a spiritual sense of self. The Yoga Sutras does not define the specific rituals that must be done by the practitioner, so Niyama can manifest differently in each person. Some examples of Niyama could include; developing a meditation practice, going to church, saying prayers before meals, or taking regular walks in nature. This limb allows us to be creative in how we express our personal observances.
The types of Niyama are:
1. Saucha: Cleanliness
2. Samtosa: Contentment
3. Tapas: Spiritual Self-Discipline
4. Svadhyaya: Self-Study
5. Isvara Pranidhana: Surrender to God
Asana- Asana is the most well known limb mentioned in The Yoga Sutras. The word Asana translates to posture or seat in English. The physical act of yoga purifies the body as well as cultivates strength, balance, and flexibility. Asana is an important limb because it is a system of calming the mind and body in order to connect with higher states of consciousness.
Pranayama- Pranayama or breath control is the fourth limb of yoga and is often combined with Asana. When translated to English Pranayama means “life force”. Pranayama is a means to control the respiratory system in order to understand the connection between mind, body, and breath. By practicing different Pranayama techniques we learn to control our life force and continue to purify our minds and bodies of things we do not need. Some yogis believe pranayama can not only rejuvenates the body but also reverses aging and extend life. Many different Pranayama techniques exist and can be done as part of the asana practice or before sitting meditation as means to calm the mind before intense concentration.
Pratyahara- Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses or the retreat from the external world. This limb requires us to go within and concentrate on the self. When practicing Pratyahara we try to detach from our senses in order to focus on the internal. Ultimately this practice gives us permission to separate from the outside world as a means to observe our emotional and spiritual fluctuations and inconsistencies. Through Pratyahara we began to look at ourselves truthfully and objectively, as well as detach from our impermanent thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
Dharana- After removing the stimulus of the outside world we cultivate concentration through Dharana. Through Dharana we develop a single-pointed meditation practice. The mind can rest on the breath or an energetic center of the body such as the third eye or a chakra. Mantra can also be used to fix the mind on something we wish to cultivate or a deity we wish to honor. In Dharana if the mind wanders we come back to our single pointed focus and began again as a means to further enhance our concentration and awareness.
Dhyana- Dhyana is meditation or contemplation and refers to an uninterrupted flow of concentration. In this stage the mind is no longer in single-pointed meditation and has completely stopped the flow of thought. In this limb the mind is in a state of total awareness and absorption. Through Dhyana we connect with deep states of consciousness that bring us closer to a state of bliss or enlightenment.
Samadhi- The Yoga Sutras describe Samadhi as a state of total bliss or ecstasy. This limb is achieved when all previous limbs are cultivated and put into action. If a practitioner reaches Samadhi they have totally transcended the ego in order to become one with the universe or divine. Once in a state of Samadhi, a practitioner will feel connected with all living things. In traditional Yogic philosophy, it is said that it may take many lifetimes to achieve Samadhi.
The eight limbs of Yoga are a guide to helps us along our paths and journeys. Though some of these practices may seem hard to cultivate, they often provide our lives with clarity, meaning, and fulfillment. If you are trying to establish the eight limbs into your life start slowly and make intentional choices. The limbs of Yoga are meant to be cultivated slowly with the help of a teacher or intentional community. Using the Limbs of Yoga can be a creative and fun way to care for yourself and your community, by bringing awareness to what is truly sacred within ourselves and within others.