Monday, September 15, 2014

Eight Limbs: Simplified

Many of us know the physical practice of yoga, commonly referred to as "asana". Traditional yoga engages more than just our physical body, but is an eightfold path. These guidelines are aspirational and something to keep in mind as you bring the physical practice of yoga off of the mat. I observe myself through the lens of these guidelines and find myself falling off balance, practicing imperfectly all the time. I know where to go to reset myself. Just as my pose may not perfect in one session, neither is my mind or spirit, but with my gaze is set in the right direction, over time I find my spiritual alignment and my energy moving fluidly with practice. 

Here is a simple breakdown of the eight limbs:

  1. Yamas: This is like the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Practice nonviolence, being truthful, not stealing, restraint, and noncovetousness.
  2. Niyama: This is spiritual hygiene. Embody: cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self study and surrender to spirit. 
  3. Asana: This is the physical practice: "Your body is your temple". We learn concentration and discipline. This is the one I am really good at!
  4. Pranayama: Breathing exercises. The mastery of breath control is so important. The breath is the bridge from the mind to the body, and is the pathway of the emotions. When we gain mastery of the breath, we strengthen the mind and learn to detach from the emotions in a healthy way. 
  5. Pratyahara: Detachment means that we observe, but pull our focus inward so that outward circumstances are not the basis for our contentment. "It's an inside job".
  6. Dharma: This is our spiritual purpose. We learn to detach from our thinking nature, by learning one pointed focus. This may mean stopping the mind for a moment.
  7. Dhyana: A sustained period of concentration when the mind stops.This is very advanced and comes with practice. It comes from regularly sitting.This is the one that  I must remind myself to practice imperfectly. Like any muscle, it strengthens with consistency. 
  8. Samadhi: Awakening! This can be translated in so many ways. Enlightenment is beyond time and space. If you could pull far away out of time/space, body/ are already awakened. The ultimate moment of bliss is available to all. 
While these guidelines may seem lofty, when we look at life through this lens, we can always return to good, clean living. When we fall off, we always have a place to which we can return. This is the yoga.

No comments:

Post a Comment