Many of us practice the eight limbs of yoga without knowing it. Yoga means the union of opposites. The eight limbs of yoga brings together our breath, mind and body to heal us from the inside out.
Yama – Ethical Standards
In its purest form, yama is about not harming living beings: animals, plants, minerals and humans.
Niyama – Ethical Observances
Our beliefs are put into action with daily practices. We devote to philosophical, spiritual or religious study and practice that may include spending time in nature everyday, eating a plant-based diet, communicating with angels or socializing with people of like minds.
Asana – Postures
We all know this as the different styles of hatha (power) – Iyengar, Astanga, Kundalini, Bikram and Sivananda. The intention of hatha is to strengthen the body for meditation.
Pranayama – Breath Control
Translated as ‘life force extension,’ this is a focus on the breath as it is connected to the body and mind. It moves the chi, or energy, throughout the body. Alternate nostril breathing and the Breath of Fire are two of the techniques in pranayama.
Pratayahara – Withdrawal of Senses
Taking a break from daily life by turning off the television, cell phone and computer. Going camping or meditation retreats are other ways we can unplug from the world.
The five limbs above prepare us for the the next three limbs, which are phases from beginning to end.
Dharana – Concentration
Sitting in meditation focusing on the breath, chakra or an object (candle flame, symbol pictured in the mind).
Dhyana – Uninterrupted Flow of Concentration
Experiencing ‘monkey mind’ is normal. The mind becomes still with practice. With dhyana we no longer notice the breath or other object of focus.
Samadhi – Enlightenment
We transcend mind, body and breath. This is a sense of ultimate peace, connection with the Divine. In meditation we can experience this for a moment, several minutes or longer.
We do not have to become a monastic to achieve enlightenment, but we can choose where to focus our energy in work, play, friends and family to maintain our internal feeling of peace. This is the ultimate self-care.