If you have started practicing yoga and you are impressed by its positive effect on your health and wellbeing, you may have wanted to extend its influence to the rest of your life. Renowned sage Patanjali (who wrote the Yoga Sutra almost 2,000 years ago) conveniently divided yoga into an eight-fold path meant to enhance meaning and purpose in life.
Yogic Limbs Achieved during the Practice of Yoga
It is easy to see how many of the limbs can be achieved through regular practice of yoga: these include Asana (the third limb, which involves the practice of asanas to strengthen discipline and turn our body into a fitting temple for the spirit), Pranayama (the fourth limb, involving breath control, an important component of yoga), and Dhyana (the seventh limb, involving meditation or contemplation), when the mind is calmed and it enjoys a beautiful stillness.
Yogic Limbs Involving Outlook and Behavior
Other limbs are more concerned with our beliefs, values, and how we treat others. For instance, the first limb, Yama, involves following the golden rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. This involves being honest and non-violent, and knowing how to control and manage our emotions. It also shuns jealousy and envy, which are incompatible with a peaceful state of mind.
Niyama (the second limb), meanwhile, advises us of the importance of self-discipline and spiritual observance. It involves either joining others in worship, or creating our own spiritual traditions, which can include daily meditation and the recitation of positive affirmations.
Yogic Limbs Involving Nature and Spirituality
Two yogic limbs in particular highlight the vital link between nature and spirituality. These are the fifth and sixth limbs: Pratyahara (meaning withdrawal or sensory transcendence) and Dharana (meaning concentration). While the practice of yoga and pranayama, specifically, enhance our ability to follow these paths, nature hones our ability to transcend above our daily problems and simply be ‘in the present moment’. For this reason, many yoga teachers enjoy teaching classes in the midst of inspiring natural scenery by the ocean or mountains; nature naturally lowers levels of stress hormones, transports the mind into ‘the here and now’ and makes it easier to feel like we are part of a greater force that runs through all living things.
By following all the above limbs, we eventually achieve the eight limb: that of Samadhi (ecstasy), where we transcend the self and merge with what we are focusing. We become connected to the Divine and come to the beautiful end of the yogic path, in which we find what all human beings wish to achieve: peace.
About the Author:
Sally Perkins is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.