Today I have set myself down to learn the Eight Limbs of Yoga, like a good yogi-teacher-in-training.
In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (which is kind of the first formalised book on yoga philosophy), Patanjali describes the path of yoga as being “eight limbed”. The actual sanskrit word he uses is “ASHTANGA” which breaks down to “ashta = 8” and “anga = limb”.
It is thought that each of these limbs plays an important role in helping us reach that completely blissed out, peaceful/enlightened state – aka “UBER YOGI”. In many texts and books on this topic – the eight limbs have been compared to branches on a tree – with each limb preparing us for the next higher limb/branch. I chose to represent those eight limbs on an octopus though, because
a) even although one “limb” prepares us for the next, Patanjali still places equal importance on each of them and
b) an Octopus is way more fun to draw than a tree.
In terms of modern living – these limbs or paths are like a guidebook for living a good life – I have broken them down below:
- YAMAS: Rhymes with Llamas. These are ethical considerations – (in basic terms) how you interact with society and the people around you, in general. There are 5 of these in total.
- NIYAMAS: Self observations. Similar to the YAMAS above, these are how you interact with yourself. Your inner thoughts, feelings and daily practices. There are also 5 of these.
- ASANA: The physical poses. (ie: all that stuff you see on instagram)
- PRANAYAMA: Breath control. By controlling our breathing we control our mind – slow, calm steady breathing creates a slow, calm steady mind. And vice versa.
- PRATYAHARA: Sense withdrawal. By withdrawing our senses from what is going on around us, we become non-attached to those things (eg: “ooh, look at her yoga pants”, “hmm, my downward dog doesn’t look like hers”, “what is that smell – I wonder what I should make for dinner?”) Quieting those things enables us to focus inward to that simple state of “being”.
- DHARANA: Concentration – Focusing the attention on one object. We all know that is the only way to achieve anything.
- DHANYA: Meditation. Letting the mind be completely at rest: no judgement, no attachment, no nagging voices.
- SAMADHI: Blissed out state. Congratulations. You’ve arrived.