The Eight Limbs of Yoga

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

There is more to hatha yoga than the postures (asana). Enjoy this simple introduction to the Eight Limbs:         1.yamas About boundaries: joyfully & purposefully reining our energies: ahimsa- non-violence satya – truthfulness asteya – non-stealing brahmacharya – non-indulgence aparigraha – non-possessiveness 2.niyamas shaucha – purity, cleanliness samtosha – contentment with exactly where we are tapas- austerity, wise effort svadhyaya – self-study Ishvara pranidhana – surrender to the divine, universal force, whatever name you give it 3.asana the physical and meditative postures. “Within a vibrant body the soul can carry a joyful mind.” 4.pranayama liberating the flow of energy via the breath. the science of the breath. prana=life force, yama=expansion. 5.pratyahara disentangling our senses, our mind & focusing in towards the soul, the deepest self. 6.dharana concentration. total, deliberate attention. 7.dhyana meditation. The union of taking the deep self outwards into the body, and the peripheral body into the deep self. Divisions fall away. 8.samadhi the pure state of spiritual absorption: one is fully at peace. the soul diffuses and harmonizes everywhere.   Compiled with help from these publications: Iyengar, B.K.S., 1988 The Tree of Yoga. Shambala Publications, Inc. Boston, MA. Swami Rama, 2005 “The Royal Road to Freedom.” Yoga International, May: 83 (64-73).      ...

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When ‘Not Practicing’ Yoga is Practice

When ‘Not Practicing’ Yoga is Practice

A yoga friend asked recently, ‘What poses do you avoid in your yoga practice, and how does that translate into your daily life?” Well… First off: asana practice is only one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, and it’s certainly not the only way to practice. Really, everything is practice….but it’s helpful to narrow things down so our minds can explore possibilities. I’m using my asana practice as one lens of observation here. Avoidance or Deep Listening? It’s become clear to me over the past few months that I HATE Virabradasana A & B (Warrior 1 & 2). Loathe. I dread them, which is pretty rotten considering much of my practice over the last ten years has been the Ashtanga Primary Series, sets of poses where those two come up a lot. I could deal with the quick in and out of Warrior 1 in the Surya Namaskara B’s (5 rounds of Sun Salutes including Warrior 1 on both sides), but it was the holding of the poses later in the sequence that would get to me. I’d feel whiny, anxious, bitter, annoyed, agitated, frustrated, angry, sad, unstable; all inside my own head/heart, and I could defend the hell out of myself to avoid them. You know excuses: “My quads are too weak. I’m too tired already from the standing sequence. This one must just not be good for me.  F*%# this. I hate this pose. This pose is stupid. Ashtanga must be dangerous. Yoga must be dangerous. Why am I letting someone tell me what to do!?” Listening to the deepest self? to a teacher? to both? The whole practice of yoga is to get us closer to our own deepest self, our soul. The word Yoga actually means “to yoke or harness the soul.” So, in training to hear and listen to my deepest self, at what point do I surrender to a teacher, to a lineage, to a practice? What if I’m being instructed to do a pose , but MY own inner voice is saying “I f*%#ing hate this pose?” Should I take a break from it? Maybe. It can feel confusing. I practiced various forms of Hatha Yoga for many years before diving into Ashtanga around 2002. Around that same time, I was exploring a very regular home practice. I practiced the full Ashtanga Primary Series in class with a teacher, and at home, my practice might be anything from the full Primary Series to lying on my back in savasana for a half-hour (& typically somewhere in-between). A few years into that, I quit going to classes altogether–I desperately needed a hiatus from external input regarding my yoga. It seemed like suddenly everyone...

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