When you think of Yoga, you might think about “crazy” poses that you could never imagine getting yourself into. In Sanskrit we call the physical postures of yoga “asana.” Some of the poses look really cool, don’t get me wrong. Additionally, what you don’t see all the time is the stretching and strengthening that folks do to build themselves up enough to be able to get into some of the more challenging postures. There are loads of poses that are beneficial for everyone and accessible to everyone. You can even do them in a chair! However, the truth is these poses are just ONE PIECE of what yoga truly is.
Yoga is composed of 8 different parts, or limbs, that together equal a whole. The poses, of asanas, are one of those limbs. The whole point of yoga is to reach enlightenment but we use the physical practice more as “exercise” in western culture. And that is okay. However, I believe it is important to be aware that there is much more to Yoga. So much more.
So these eight limbs of yoga can be found in the Yoga Sutras, which is an ancient text that dates back anywhere from 5,000 BC to 300 AD. These Sutras, written by a Patanjali, are ideas that are the basis for all the different types of meditation and Yoga that we see today. When you practice Yoga, you are literally practicing something ancient. How cool is that? It is important to note that it has definitely changed over time and through interpretation. Either way, respect is due to the ancient lineage and process that allowed yoga to reach us all here in the year 2021 as I type these words, and it will continue to live on for the foreseeable future.
The complete list of the 8 limbs of yoga are as follows: Yama (outer ethical behavior); Niyama (inner ethical behavior); Asanas (physical postures); Pranayama (breathwork); Pratyahara (becoming aware of the senses and turning inward); Dharana (concentration); Dhyana (meditation); Samadhi (becoming one with the Self).
So the end goal is to unite back with yourself, which is great because so many people are feeling lost these days. But in the meantime, you begin to embark on this larger, more beautiful journey when you finally start to see yourself for the first time, in a long time.
Now, if you took notice of the order to the limbs of yoga, they are not accidental. The truth is, our outer and inner ethical behaviors need to come before anything else. How can we expect to get right with ourselves and reach a beautiful oneness without patience, dedication, and persistence. Keep going. Sure, over the years I have lost touch with my practice here and there. Some periods of time longer than others. But, every time I come back to it, it teaches me something new. So yoga is something I can rely on, which teaches me that it is actually myself that I can rely on. It is always up to us and no one else.
The Yamas and the Niyamas are principals that you’re going to find in most religious texts that describe our moral code. Live your life on the outside of your being without violence (Ahimsa), with truthfulness (Satya), without stealing either in the physical or energetic sense (Asteya), with moderation (Brahmacharya), and free from desires (Aparigraha). On a more personal level you should strive for purity (Soucha), contentment ( Santosha), self-discipline (Tapas), self-study (Svadhyaya), devotion to the Divine (Ishvara Pranidhana).
After you check in and start working on yourself, then the postures, breathwork, and mindfulness can come into play more clearly. However, the postures, breathwork, and gentle request to be mindful during a quick yoga class at the gym is usually what causes us to contemplate and think about some of our own guiding principals and morals in life.
Once you let go of all your judgments and stories that you are holding onto in life, you will feel lighter. Yoga can make you feel lighter. They say that Pranayama is the link between the physical world and the emotional world. Only you can determine when you begin your journey. I must warn you, you cannot decide where they journey will take you though! Just ride the wave and see what you learn. And if you decide to close yourself off, then of course you will stop learning and advancing just like when you opened yourself up and first began.
Obviously, you cannot conquer old age traditions over night and find the inner peace that you seek. If only there was a quick fix like that, the world would be a happier place. However, it is up to each of us to keep learning, growing, and sharing our knowledge with others so hopefully these mini waves of knowledge and information with spark a curiosity deep in your soul that will make you wonder what else there is. Is there liberation for me?
The answer is yes, of course. But are you willing to devote yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking? Are you willing to start working on changing your thought patterns? And analyzing your life story to truly discover what may be holding you back? Will you start to implement new habits throughout your day and week and over time? I pray that you are willing to do these things!
When and if you decide that you are ready to embark on a new journey of learning and self-discovery, start with Google. Read a lot. Don’t just read from one source. Ask for help and advice from people who have the knowledge and people that you trust.
If you would like to contact me and discuss the possibility of working together to create customized classes that are tailored to what you are looking to work towards as and individual, please contact me here or use the form below.
Love + Light,