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The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Updated on September 7, 2011

What is Yoga

The book “Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit” by Donna Farhi defines yoga as a technology for arriving in the present moment.It is a means of waking up from spiritual amnesia so that we can remember all that we already know, that is remembering our true nature which is essentially joyful and peaceful.Webster’s definite it as a series of postures and breathing exercises that are practiced to attain mental control, tranquility and physical presence.Hindi philosophy regard is a a unity with the Supreme Being.In Sanskrit, yoga translates to “union” or to “to yoke”, which refers to uniting the mind and body.Yoga originated inIndia over 5,000 years ago and has been regarded as a union of the Individual self with the Universal self.It is a practice that can be done by any person regardless of age, sex, race or religious beliefs and can be used to harness one’s full potential.

8 Limbs of Yoga

There are many branches of yoga though there are eight limbs being referred to that forms the structuralframework for whatever emphasis upon which individualwishes to concentrate.Think of these eight limbs as parts of the body, the legs, the arms, etc, that needs to be developed one by one in order to maximize one’s full potential.The eight limbs are Yamas and Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Praryahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

Yamas and Niyamas

Yamas and Niyamas refer to ten living principles that allow one to be at peace with oneself, with the family and the entire community around him.Yamas consists of chracteristics that are observed by wise people since the beginning of time that are essential to live life in freedom.It refers to the relationship with the people around you and with the relationship to oneself.Niyamas, on the other hand, focuses on the soulfulness of the person and the choices he makes in life.Both yamas and niyamas state that the fundamental nature of a person is compassion, generosity, honesty and peacefulness.

In general, yamas refer to attitude towards the environment while niyama translates to attitude towards oneself.

Asana and Pranayana

“Asana” means “pose or posture”or literally “comfortable seat”.It refers to the dynamic internal dances in the form of postures which help to keep the body flexible, strong and more relaxed. It is essentially pointing out to posture practices and positioning the body while incorporating breathing to achieve a greater sense of mind, body and spirit.

Pranayana refers to breathing practices that helps develop constancy in the movement of“prana” or life force. It s a Sanskrit word that means “breath” or extension of prana .It focuses on breath of life,energy, vigor and spirit or soul. Mainly, it focuses on breath control.

Pratyahara and Dharana

Pratyahara is the drawing of ones attention to silence rather that things around him.It is withdrawing the sense away from all the distractions in the external surroundings.

Dharana is the ability to sustain awareness and concentration under all conditions. .It is meditating and clearing away the mental clutter that surrounds the subconscious in order to experience the joy of one’s soul.

Dhyana and Samadhi

Dhyana is meditation, which is done through prolonged concentration until it fills the whole consciousness

Samadhi is the return of the mind into original silence.It isbeing in the ultimate state of self-realization and liberating oneself into awakened state.


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