The Eight Limbs of Classical Yoga

1. YAMA

Restraints, or moral discipline. The yamas consist of five elements of outward spiritual practice performed to avoid unrighteous behavior:

  • Aparigraha

Non-acquisitiveness. In contemporary terms, this could mean to avoid greed and the acquisition of material goods, to avoid grasping for power, and to simplify your life. Be content with what you have. Do not hoard. Share and share alike.

  • Asteya

Nonstealing. Do not take that which does not belong to you in a material, physical, spiritual, intellectual, or emotional sense. Respect others’ boundaries and property.

  • Ahimsa

Nonviolence. Do no harm. Practice nonviolent words and deeds toward yourself and others. Live peacefully in word, deed, and thought.

  • Brahmacharya

Moderation, self-control, strength of will, sexual restraint. Though this yama was originally intended to mean abstinence from sexual activity or depravity for spiritual and religious purposes, it has far-reaching significance today. Even if you do not take a vow of celibacy, be virtuous and loving in thought and action. Do not fall prey to lust, selfishness, over-indulgence, or ego trips. In other words: If you talk the talk, you must walk the walk. You cannot live one way on the yoga mat and another off it. Beware of gurus and teachers who live this kind of double-life.

  • Satya

Truthfulness, sincerity, integrity, honesty, the power of the word. Speak the truth. Tell no lies. Be honest to yourself and others, and the world will reflect that honesty back to you, providing you with all the support you need.

2. NIYAMA

Observances; self-restraint. The niyamas consist of five inner practices to follow in maintaining correct moral principles. These are:

  • Samtosa

Contentment, equanimity, happiness, satisfaction. Practice happiness and contentment, honoring all that you are and all that you have right now in this moment. Know that it is truly enough. Be satisfied with your life on a deep level in the present moment. Enjoy the now.

  • Tapas

Burning zeal, desire to achieve self-realization, purification. Practice discipline and cultivate a fiery spirit. Burn through the ego. Practice endurance, building strength, stamina, and wisdom. Understand that discipline is a form of self-care, not self-deprivation.

  • Saucha

Purity of body and mind. Embrace purity in your body, environment, relationships, communications, and actions. Keep yourself and your life clear and clean, within and without. Care for your soul and the environment.

  • Svadhyaya

Self-observation, self-study. Be rigorous in looking at yourself. Practice introspection. Study the ancient texts and scriptures, read philosophy to enrich your mind and recite poetry to lighten your heart. Know yourself deeply and authentically, so that you may fully know others. Assess your thoughts and actions. Change what you don’t like, relinquish what does not serve you or others well. Embrace what does.

  • Ishvara Pranidhana

Surrender to God or the Divine. Be devoted. Let go of your small self and your ego, throw away willfulness and competition. Embrace a higher source, and trust in its benevolence. Accept the mystery and miracle of life, approach it with a sense of gratitude, awe and wonder.

3. ASANA

Yoga postures. An external spiritual practice that helps us attain stillness in mind and body. These powerful poses create strength, flexibililty, vitality and self-awareness, cleansing the body and mind and guiding us to a sense of stillness and unity within and without.

4. PRANAYAMA

Breath control; achieving a balanced state of mind through the steadiness of the breath. Pranayama refers to an array of invigorating and relaxing yogic breathing exercises that help us calm the mind and steady the thoughts, awakening inner peace and cleansing the system.

5. PRATYAHARA

Withdrawal of the senses, turning the senses inward, controlling the mind through the control of the senses. Practicing detachment from the vicissitudes of life. Moving beyond the ups and downs of external reality into a greater sense of stillness, ease, and spaciousness, by turning awareness inward.

6. DHARANA

Concentration, fixing the attention on one focal point to gain unbroken contemplation. Fostering equilibrium, equanimity, poise, and grace.

7. DHYANA

Meditation, sitting in stillness as the threshold to union with the Divine. Quieting the mind and opening the heart to allow the radiance of the Divine to nurture, heal, inspire, and enliven.

8. SAMADHI

Super-consciousness, pure contentment, equilibrium, enlightenment, ecstasy (standing outside the ordinary self), enstasy (standing inside the self), bliss, peace, union with the Divine. In this state, the spiritual seeker (sadak) loses the individual self and merges with the Universal Spirit. Samadhi is the state in which one feels, knows, and revels in the direct presence of the Divine with the entire body and soul.

Taken and Modified from:
Leza Lowitz;Reema Datta. Sacred Sanskrit Words: For Yoga, Chant, and Meditation.

201210.002

 

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