Yoga is an ancient Sanskrit word with many uses. Today, most people in the United States associate the word yoga with a system of physical postures knowns as asanas. Yoga however, is much more than poses. Viewed holistically, yoga is an eight-limbed system that includes ethics, postures, breathwork, and meditation techniques that are intended to lead the practitioner to samadhi, which can be understood as “enlightenment” or “bliss”.
The ashtanga (eight-limbed) system of yoga was initially described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. According to Patanjali, the yoga system includes an ethical code including moral observances (yamas) and personal observances (niyamas), postures (asana), breathwork (pranayama), sense withdrawal (pratyahara), focused concentration (dharana), meditative absorption (dhyana), and samadhi. Before moving forward, I think it’s important to briefly explore these limbs.
There are five yamas and five niyamas. The yamas provide guidelines for our relationship to other beings (both human and non-human). The niyamas are personal observances often considered to be “good habits”.
Ahimsa – non-harming or non-violence in thoughts, words, or action
Satya – truthfulness
Asteya – non-stealing
Brahmacharya – celibacy or “right use of energy”
Aparigraha – non-greed or non-hoarding
Saucha – cleanliness
Santosha – contentment
Tapas – discipline, austerity, “purifying fire”
Svadhyaya – study of self and texts Isvara Pranidhana – contemplating the divine
More to come!
Check back soon for more on the eight limbs of yoga!