Eight Limbs of Yoga: A study of much more than exercise – Dr. Christie Smirl
The writings of Pantjali proposes eight paths of yoga to attain enlightenment. These eight steps are guidelines to living a meaningful and purposeful life. It is a common misbelief that yoga is just a form of fitness with pretzel like poses. There are actually eight divisions of yogic development and only one of them encompasses poses. Let’s take a brief look at all eight recommendations.
The first limb of yoga are yamas. Yamas are abstentions – behaviors to avoid for developing personal purity. There are 5 yamas: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), bhramacharia (control of senses), asteya (non-stealing) and aparigraha (non-covetousness).
- Ahimsa: Non-violence includes avoidance of killing, violent actions, self harm, gossip, thoughts of hate or dislike, negative self speak, frowning, mean looks, cruel gestures, harsh speech, rudeness, road rage, harsh criticisms.
- Satya: Truthfulness includes not telling lies to others or self, keeping your word and aligning actions with words and thoughts.
- Bhramacharya: Control of senses and restraining from sensual indulgence helps retain energy and prana for practicing higher limbs of yoga such as dharana, dhyana, samadhi, ojas and tejas.
- Asteya: Non-stealing includes the concept of being happy with what comes to you by honest means.
- Aparigraha: Non-covetousness. The definition of covet is to longingly wish for or desire what is not yours. Being happy with what we have and not always coveting unnecessary and luxury items or more than is needed.
The second limb of yoga are the niyamas. Niyamas are observances – behaviors to practice for personal development. There are 5 niyamas: saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (austerity), swadhyaya (study), ishwara pranidhana (surrender).
- Saucha: Purity includes cleanliness of mind, body, speech and surroundings.
- Santosha: Contentment. To strive to be content and satisfied with what he has while striving to improve.
- Tapas: Austerity. Discipline to keep body fit, mind clear and pure, confront our urges.
- Swadhyaya: Self-study and study of scriptures. Self evaluation, introspection, learning from mistakes, journaling, counseling and striving to be the best you can be. Self study or study of scriptures when mastered, leads to moksha
- Ishwara pranidhana: Surrender to the divine, to God to one’s higher consciousness. Making each action an offering to something bigger than self. Developing full trust in the universe.
Physical poses. The third limb of yoga are asanas, poses or movement series that bring many benefits.
- Develop mental discipline and confidence
- Develop physical discipline, coordination, flexibility and strength
- Purify srotas (body channels)
- Balance doshas
- Tonify dhatus
- Balance jataaragni and dhatu agni
Pranayama is the fourth limb of yoga where breath control techniques are practiced. These breath control methods have numerous purposes.
- Enhance prana or life force to body and mind
- Calms and balances mind
- Balances emotions
- Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
- Balances hormones, neurotransmitters and nervous system
- Balances metabolism
- Enhances digestion
- Reduces pain
Prathyahaara, the fifth limb of yoga, is the withdrawal of senses from sense objects. The practice of prathyahaara involved pulling the mind away from outer world stimuli and finding silence to create a peaceful mind, reduces agitation and rajas.
Dharana means concentration. Practicing mindfullness and concentration propells us toward our highter aims. This state of mind leads to dhyaana and samaadhi. Lack of concentration makes our life goals harder to attain.
Dhayaana means meditation. This is the seventh limb of yoga where the yogi has an effortless, joyous, natural state of mind. The meditator becomes no longer aware that they are in meditation. This state of mind separates maya (illusion) from reality and helps to attain moksha.
Samaadhi or super consciousness is the eighth and final limb of yoga. Samadhi means continuous union, super consciousness, continual union. The mind becomes fully still and enables insight, equilibrium of mind with detached intellect and ego. At this stage it is said that one can access the universal consciousness, soul to soul communication and enlightenment.
For more information about conscious living, yoga, nutrition, Ayurveda, yoga teacher training and holistic health adviser training programs please visit Dr. Christie Smirl’s website HealthierVibrations.com, connect on social media at the Healthier Vibrations page on Facebook and follow her education site on WordPress. To enjoy her guided meditations and music visit here.
Dr. Christie Smirl is a Doctorate of Ayurvedic Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, Master of Science, E-RYT Yoga Teacher, Yoga Teacher Trainer YACEP, Reiki Master/Teacher, Tantric Energy Healer and Musician. Her moto is “Heal Yourself, Heal Another, Begin Healing The World.”.