For Jim and I, this year our 2018 New Year’s resolution is all about living life with more honesty, integrity, connection and loving kindness. From being more honest with ourselves and others, paying attention to our thoughts and words, taking good care of our bodies and simple actions like cleaning out a drawer are all reminders that the longer we practice yoga, the more we understand the connection in all things.
In both of our online courses, Introduction to Let It Go Yoga and our Let It Go Certified Teachers Training, we discuss ways to take your yoga practice off the yoga mat into your everyday life. We study Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. These ancient principles have been a major influence in our practice and in our teaching over the years. This philosophy has taught us much about how yoga is a journey of self reflection and personal growth. The Eight Limbs of Yoga teach that a yoga lifestyle is not just the physical practice of yoga, it addresses all areas of life, ways to become more mindful, more aware of our thoughts, deeds, words and actions…It’s all connected!
The Eight Limbs of Yoga, called Ashtanga in Sanskrit are guidelines for a more aware, meaningful and ethical life. They address not only how to achieve optimum health, self discipline and control over the physical body, they address moral and ethical conduct and also remind us of our spiritual nature.
Many students of hatha yoga have never studied the Eight Limbs of Yoga and find it surprising that the physical practice of yoga is just one aspect of a yoga life style. It is third on the list!
Here’s a brief overview of The Eight Limbs of Yoga, and their Sanskrit names and English translations.
#1 Yamas – Abstinences. There are five Yamas: Nonviolence, Truth and Honesty, Non-stealing Strength of Will, Non-possession- Non-accumulation
#2 Niyamas- Observances. There are five Niyamas: Purity, Contentment, Austerity, Study of the Self, and Living with Spirit
#3 Asana – The yoga postures
#4 Pranayama – Breathing. The control of breath. Prana means “life force”.
#5 Pratyahara – Turning the senses inward.
#6 Dharana – Concentration. Focus on one point or image.
#7 Dhyana – Meditation
#8 Samadhi – Superconsciousness – Bliss The ultimate goal of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
The first five limbs assist the body and mind and the last three allow the mind to help you develop your spiritual nature. Each limb has many teachings in itself and can take years of study to fully understand and apply the principles. The ultimate goal is enlightenment but even if you never become enlightened, if you begin to apply these principles you will gain greater health and happiness.
Our New Year’s gift for 2018 is from our course, a video on first of the eight limbs of Yoga, the Yamas. We discuss the 5 Yamas and how we have found the teaching useful in our daily lives. Join us and start off 2018 by resolving to live with more honesty, integrity, connection and loving kindness.
Contributed by Sue Anne Parsons, founder and co-director of Let It Go Yoga.