The 8 Limbs of Hatha Yoga

“I was in yoga the other day. I was in full lotus position. My chakras were all aligned. My mind is cleared of all clatter and I’m looking out of my third eye and everything that I’m supposed to be doing. It’s amazing what comes up, when you sit in that silence. ‘Mama keeps whites bright like the sunlight, Mama’s got the magic of Clorox 2.’” ~Ellen Degeneres

Yoga is a deep spiritual practice that originated in ancient India. The practice of yoga aims to unify the body, mind and soul with an awareness of the divinity that surrounds us. “Yoga” translates to “union” in Sankrit and “reunion” in Tibetan. This ancient science guides us closer to our higher selves.

Yoga is more than flexibility. While practice does lead to greater bendiness, it also improves strength, balance, and focus. The yogic lifestyle greatly reduces the tension which manifests as pain and stress by incorporating mindfulness, deep and conscious breathing, selfless service, vegetarianism, hatha yoga practice, devotion and wisdom through experience.

But true yoga is taking the mindfulness and compassion cultivated on the mat into our every interaction and relationship.

In the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, yoga is defined as having 8 limbs:

* Yama (The five abstentions): non-violence, non-lying, non-covetousness, non-sensuality, and non-possessiveness

* Niyama (The five observances): purity, contentment, austerity, study, and surrender

* Asana: poses; asanas improve the body’s physical health and clear the mind in preparation for meditation. Asanas can cure or prevent many physical and mental ailments.

* Pranayama: control of the life force, prana, through breathing exercises. Deep, conscious breathing reduces stress and alleviates anxiety.

* Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.

* Dharana (Concentration): Fixing the attention on a single object.

* Dhyana (Meditation): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.

* Samadhi: Liberation; merging consciousness with the object of meditation; also known as enlightenment.

There are various “types” of yoga, including bhakti (devotional), jnana (scholarly), karma (selfless service) and hatha. One famous hatha yoga adage says: You are as young as your spine is flexible. Hatha yoga is the physical body’s branch of the yoga tree. It involves stretching, breathing and meditating.

“Ha” means sun in Sanskrit; “tha” means moon. Hatha yoga represents opposing energies: yin and yang, hot and cold, male and female, positive and negative. Hatha yoga balances the mind and body via physical postures (asanas), purification practices, controlled breathing, relaxation, and meditation.

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