This week’s Sutra discussion focused on the eight limbs (or eight-limb path) of yoga. The following web page contains a nice explanation of the eight limbs:
Here is a brief summary of the eight limbs of yoga, taken from the above web page:
———- The Eight Limbs of Yoga ———-
Yama : Universal morality
Ahimsa: compassion for all living things
Satya: commitment to truthfullness
Asteya: non-stealing (objects, ideas, another’s time)
Brahmacharya: sense control, control of sexual urges and desire; responsible sexual behavior (not necessarily celilbacy)
Aparigraha: neutralizing the desire to hoard wealth (non-greediness)
Niyama : Personal observances
Sauca: purity, cleanliness; refers to outward and inward cleanliness
Santosa: contentment; accepting what is, what we have
Tapas: disciplined use of our energy
Svadhyaya: self-study, self-inquiry, self-examination
Isvarapranidhana: celebration of the spiritual; “to lay all your actions at the feet of God”
Asanas : Body postures
The practice of moving the body into postures has benefits of improved health, strength, balance and flexibility
On a deeper level the practice of asana, which means “staying” or “abiding” in Sanskrit, is used as a tool to calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being. The challenge of poses offers the practitioner the opportunity to explore and control all aspects of their emotions, concentration, intent, faith, and unity between the physical and the ethereal body
Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
Pranayama is the measuring, control, and directing of the breath. Pranayama controls the energy (prana) within the organism, in order to restore and maintain health. When the in-flowing breath is neutralized or joined with the out-flowing breath, then perfect relaxation and balance of body activities are realized.
Pratyahara : Control of the senses; withdrawal of the senses from external objects
Pratyahara means drawing back or retreat. The word ahara means “nourishment”; pratyahara translates as “to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses.”
In yoga, the term pratyahara implies withdrawal of the senses from attachment to external objects. It can then be seen as the practice of non-attachment to sensorial distractions as we constantly return to the path of self realization and achievement of internal peace.
Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
Dharana means “immovable concentration of the mind”. The essential idea is to hold the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. Iyengar: “When the body has been tempered by asanas, when the mind has been refined by the fire of pranayama and when the senses have been brought under control by pratyahara, the sadhaka (seeker) reaches the sixth stage, dharana. Here he is concentrated wholly on a single point or on a task in which he is completely engrossed. The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption.”
Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
Dhyana means worship, or profound and abstract religious meditation. It is perfect contemplation. It involves concentration upon a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it. When one focuses on the divine they become more reflective of it and they know their true nature.
Samadhi : Union with the Divine
The final step in the eight-fold path of Yoga is the attainment of Samadhi. Samadhi means “to bring together, to merge.” In the state of samadhi the body and senses are at rest, as if asleep, yet the faculty of mind and reason are alert, as if awake; one goes beyond consciousness.