Monday, August 16, 2010

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Statue of Patanjali
Many (maybe most) of us do yoga because of the physical and mental health benefits we enjoy from practicing the poses and breathing exercises.    This is a great reason to do yoga!  However, there's much more to yoga than the physical practice of asanas (poses) and pranayama (breath work).

The philosophy of yoga  gives us guidelines for living a meaningful, purposeful life in its entirety, not just on the physical plane.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali ( from 1500 -- 2000 years ago) codifies the philosophy and practice of yoga into succinct aphorisms.  

Patanjali delineates The Eight Limbs ("Ashtanga"), or constituents, of yoga:
  • Yama -- Ethical and moral standards and sense of integrity, along the same line as "The Golden Rule".
  • Niyama -- Self-discipline and spiritual observances.
  • Asana -- Physical postures, for physical health and to develop discipline and concentration.
  • Pranayama -- Breathing exercises, breath control.  Connection between the body, breath, and mind.
  • Pratyahara -- Withdrawal of the senses -- looking inward.
  • Dharana -- Concentration
  • Dhyana -- Meditation
  • Samadhi -- Enlightenment -- the blissful union of self with the divine.
In upcoming posts, we'll look more deeply at each of these Eight Limbs of Yoga.

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