Some of you may have heard of ‘Astanga Yoga’ or ‘The 8 Limbs of Yoga’.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga were described by the sage, Patanjali. To put it simply, they are the basic fundamental rules a yogi should abide by that will lead to self-realization.
Now that may sound a bit ‘airy fairy’ and hippie right? Wrong!
I will take you through a journey for each ‘Limb’ and how you can incorporate it into your life; perhaps to reach ‘self-realisation’, or to perhaps just live a happier, cleaner, healthier lifestyle and be the best version of you possible.
The 8 Limbs include the following: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
- Yama – General moral and ethical principles.
- Niyama – Restraints to create inner integrity.
- Asana – Yogic poses to strengthen the body
- Pranayama – Breath control to control and strengthen the mind.
- Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses, detaching from the external world.
- Dharana – Concentration.
- Dhyana – Meditation
- Samadhi – Union with the divine self, a state of total absorption.
To begin our quest through the 8 limbs, we will start off with the Yamas. The Yamas remind us of our responsibilities as social beings, and includes 5 key principles:
Ahimsa – Non Violence.
Being a gentle and kind soul to yourself, and all living beings around you; including plants and animals. This creates compassionate living. You could incorporate this into your yoga practice by practicing ahimsa on your body; don’t push yourself beyond your boundaries causing pain and discomfort. It’s your body and your practice, not one day is the same so you should treat yourself kindly and only do what suits you on that particular day. To some yogi’s, practicing ahimsa also means eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, as to not cause violence against animals.
Satya – Truthfullness in Mind and Action.
Practising Satya in your day-to-day life would include not lying, not cheating and not being deceptive. This could also translate into being true to yourself and others around you, ensuring you are always your true self and not being someone or something you’re not.
Asteya – Non Stealing.
To be free from possessiveness and envy. One could incorporate Asteya into their life by being content with their lives and what they have, rather than desiring materialistic things that are not necessary. Instead of picking all the beautiful flowers, why not leave one for someone else to enjoy? This can also be translated to the concept of time; you can even incorporate this into your work schedule or yoga class – slow down, enjoy the time it takes to do a pose, take the time to get the alignment right, or take the time to ensure that report is up to scratch…don’t steal your own time that can be enjoyed, or anyone else’s.
Brahmacharya – Abstinence and the practice of moderation in all things.
Traditionally, Brahmacharya meant abstinence in the sexual sense. Nowadays, it’s more translated into a wider meaning. It could mean a disciplined sexual life for some, not seeing male or female bodies as purely sexual objects; but as a beautiful living creatures that deserve love and respect, and not having many sexual partners. It can also mean practicing moderation in all things, so they are more enjoyed when we do have them; this can really relate to anything that we crave…food, alcohol, sex, even treating ourselves to retail therapy!
Aparigraha – Non Greed.
An attitude of generosity and non-hoarding. This could be incorporated into ones life by only using, buying or having what is necessary and important to us.
Do you really need that expensive pair of shoes? Or maybe it’s time for a cleanup of your wardrobe – maybe you could donate your items to a charity.
That brings us to the end of the Yamas. See, not that weird are they? Everyone can relate to them and incorporate them into their lives at some stage. Why don’t you try it?!
Look out for our posts coming up as we move through the other 7 Limbs of Astanga Yoga.
Written by Erin Jolley, Yoga Teacher and Nutritionist.