The 8 Limbs of Yoga

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 Sanskrit 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.

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.

Right now, take three deep, complete breaths. Inhale fully, filling the lungs,
and relax your abdominal muscles. Let your exhale be passive, in other words don’t push it out or try to lengthen it unnaturally. Already after just a few breaths using this method, you may feel calmer and more centered. Imagine breathing this way for an hour-long yoga or meditation session. Or all the time!

Yoga teaches our bodies to breathe more deeply as a habit — even outside our formal practice.

Without even thinking about it, we may begin to sigh or breathe more deeply throughout the day. Breathing with acute awareness of the breath and a pervading sense of gratitude for each inhale and exhale transforms your attitude and sense of well being.

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