Thursday, November 5, 2009


The Eight Limbs of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra - Asht'Anga, is what this blog aims to explore; not Patthabi Jois' primary series, folks!  Although asana will come up.  The eight limbs toward spiritual enlightenment are:
Yama: Moral observances
  1. ahimsa: non-violence in thought and deed
  2. satya: Truth
  3. asteya: Non stealing
  4. bramacharya: continence; mindful engagement, conserving energy
  5. aparigraha: greedlessness, non-hoarding

Niyama: Personal observances or discipline
  1. Shaucha: cleanliness, purity of mind and body
  2. Santosha: contentment
  3. Tapas: vigorous self-discipline (asana is a form of tapas)
  4. Svadhyaya: self-study; study of sacred scriptures
  5. Ishvara Pranidhana: devotion to God or a Power greater than ourselves

Asana: Posture; asanas purify the body and mind and have therapeutic effects

Pranayama: Control and expansion of the breath; prolongation of breath and restraint
“When the breath is irregular, the mind wavers; when the breath is steady, so is the mind” –Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses; bringing the senses under control; turning energy inward

Dharana: Concentration; prolonged concentration leads the mind toward a state of meditation

Dhyana: Meditation; Focusing on one point is concentration.  Concentrating on all points at the same time is meditation.

Samadhi: Bliss
In samadhi one loses consciousness of the body, breath mind, intelligence and ego.  He lives in infinite peace.  In this state, his wisdom and purity combined with simplicity and humility, shine forth.  Not only is he enlightened, but he illumines all those who come to him in search of truth.  –B. K.S. Iyengar, Light on Pranayama

 These limbs do not necessarily need to be followed in chronological order although the layout is a brilliant design to help us refine our awareness of ourselves, our bodies, behaviors and minds, from the foundation up, so to speak.  A lot of us in the west jump on this path in yoga class, or asana class, where we first learn to get acquainted with our toes - really get acquainted with those toes!  So if lots of asana is what it takes to get us to pay attention, then so be it.  If on the other hand, you have been meditating for years without any formal recognition of your toes, then you now have a new objective.  This is the beauty of a yoga practice - something for everyone.  So jump on the path and join me as I begin this project of exploring the practice of the eight limbs in modern, American life.  All experiences are valid.  There is no right or wrong.  It is just what is.

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