8 Limbs of Yoga

On the philosophy of Yoga

Often we are asked, what is Yoga? When we mention yoga to people around us (and to be honest, I had the same preconceived idea), the first thing that comes to our mind will be malleable bodies – bodies that fold into perfect letter ‘n’ with no gaps, full splits, handstands, arm balances. When we say we practise yoga, most would assume that it is merely another form of exercise. Alas, this form of yoga i.e. the practice of Asana, is but one of the 8 parts (limbs) of the Astanga Yoga Philosophy. So much focus is placed on the Asana that the meaning of Yoga becomes one sided, biased, and shallow. Hence, I would like to share the other facets of Yoga that are often understated if not ignored, as Yoga is essentially a tool for a union with yourself.

Codified by Patajali, Raja Yoga, also known as Astanga Yoga, can be divided into 8 forms – each being of equal importance in order to achieve the final path to Samadhi, otherwise known as enlightenment.

1. Yama – how you deal with yourself and the outside world

2. Niyama – how you deal with yourself within

3. Asana – how to be steady and comfortable

4. Pranayama- the expansion of energy through cessation of breathing

5. Pratyahara – withdrawing from senses

6. Dharana – concentration

7. Dhyana – meditation

8. Samadhi – union with the wider universe (enlightenment)

While I’m still grasping to understand each component, the key is to know that Yoga is more than just the Asana, that the value lies beyond the physical manifestation of the practice.

 

Hui Lian