YOGA is an ancient Hindu discipline aimed at uniting the various aspects of consciousness, the physical, mental, spiritual realms, until one gains Self-Realization. The word YOGA derives from the root word ‘yuj‘ meaning ‘to join or unite.’ From our human birth, we are always connected to our true nature, our ability to unite with this wisdom is the goal of Yoga. It is important be familiar with the eight-fold path of Yoga, as well as The Yoga Sutras which explain the journey to liberation. Both were constructed by the Great Sage Patanjali and are critical to Yogic Study.
There are 8 Limbs or stages of Yoga as follows;
1. YAMAS: Social Conduct. Attitude towards others and the world.
- Ahimsa (Non-Violence) = I will not be violent to others or to mySelf, not pushing my body beyond its limits. I will not harm any being, sentient or non-sentient, big or small, living or non-living (which may be recognized as justification for vegetarianism and/or veganism.)
- Satya (Truth) = I will not speak untruthfully, unnecessarily or unmindfully. I know when to speak and when to keep silent.
- Asteya (Non-Stealing) = I will not steal. I will be punctual. I will be humble.
- Brahmacharya (Non-lust) = I will not engage in sexual misconduct.
- Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness) = I will take only what I need to survive, in moderation, in mindfulness. I will not be greedy, possessive or hoarding. I trust in times of need I will be provided.
2. NIYAMAS: Personal Conduct. Attitude and treatment of Self.
- Saucha (Purity) = Cleanliness of Self (nutrition, body, environment) I will keep my body clean. I will keep my sleeping/work/living spaces clean.
- Santosha (Contentment) = I will ACCEPT the moment. I will ACKNOWLEDGE my journey here. I will APPRECIATE the challenges I have presently, I have overcome or may encounter in the future.
- Tapas (Austerity/Discipline) = I will be disciplined in practice, mind and body. I have complete focus to maintain a Yogic lifestyle and reach the final goal.
- Svadhyaya (Self-Study) = Observation of Self. I am a student of life. I will study sacred texts, learn what I do not know, and seek to gain knowledge as well as experience.
- Ishwara-Pranidhana (Divine Devotion) = Surrender to all that is known and unknown. Connection to all that is; Oneness. I have devotion in that which is THE ESSENCE OF EVERYTHING by WHICH THERE IS NO NAME ONLY DIVINE LIGHT.
3. ASANA: Physical postures that energize, cleanse and heal the body preparing it for meditation. Release mental tensions by dealing with them on a physical level. Every mental thought has a corresponding physical, muscular expression. By doing Asanas, we control the mind on a gross level.
4. PRANAYAMA: ‘Prana‘ means breath of life, ‘yama‘ means control. Thus Pranayama means to control the breath of life. The basic exercises work on inhalation, retention of breath, exhalation and the length of breath. Pranayama is useful in purifying the body and mind.
5. PRATYAHARA: Withdrawl of the senses. I will not be distracted by the attachments/aversions of sensual experience.
6. DHARANA: Concentration of the mind until it becomes effortless and natural. I concentrate fully on the task at hand. I focus my mind on my practice, my journey.
7. DHYANA: Meditation (without an object, regardless of distraction.) I am at peace at all times of life, without attachment or aversion, without effort or concentration.
8. SAMADHI: The Goal of YOGA, Unity with the DIVINE, PURE AWARENESS. I am Self-Realized, I know the TRUTH of Existence, I am LOVE, I am That.
The Eight Limbs of YOGA are all interconnected, like the limbs of a tree. The first 5 limbs must be mastered before one can successfully attain the final 3. Success is guaranteed to the student who works diligently at the entire ‘tree’ of YOGA.
*A note from my Yoga Philosophy teacher in India, Moortiji;
“Ahimsa, Satyam, etc are eternal values for the ever-changing society. These can be seen in full measure in the lives of Self-Realized/God-Realized people. They are natural qualities for them. In the case of a seeker; these values are to be cultivated. If someone has these qualities in a higher degree, it is inspiring. If it is of a lesser degree, I need not be critical of their limitations. No place is totally spiritual. No place is totally materialistic. Every place is a combination of both; of course in different ratios.”