THE JOURNEY TO KNOWING OUR TRUE SELF- The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Yoga is a spiritual practice that focuses on an inward journey to knowing your true self. Asana – the physical practice of Yoga is one very important element. However to think that Yoga and Asana are one and the same is a gross oversimplification of what Yoga is. As Patanjali; the modern sage of yoga has been quoted saying “To perform the boat posture simply to get a flatter tummy is missing the boat” Through this course a wonderful door has been opened and given me a glimpse at understanding how deep and profound Yoga truly is. So what is Yoga? Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word Yuj meaning to yoke. Yoga is commonly defined as to connect, to join or to unite. The very essence of Yoga is both an art and a science which endeavours to create a union between the mind body and soul. In today’s fast paced modern world we are often just on autopilot living life without consciousness. We are walking around with our “eyes wide shut”. We have become a culture that blames others, and looks outwards. We are impatient, and can be selfish and ego driven. Our unconscious mind simply reacts to outside sensations. If we can bring awareness and consciousness to our daily lives then reactions don’t just happen but can become a choice. Our mind does not lead us but we lead it. So how do we travel inwards? The Eight Limbs of Yoga forms the structural framework for this inward journey to occur. For want of a better term it acts as a roadmap for reaching unity between the mind body and soul. In class Hui Yan posed an interesting question- she asked why this framework has been called the 8 limbs and not the 8 steps. The imagery of limbs rather than steps signifies that all limbs connect to one and make a whole part. None of the limbs are more important or above any other limb. In essence this is Yoga- the unification and joining. Asana is not more important than Yama, and nor is Pratyahara more important than Pranayama. They are all of equal importance. I found this image on Pinterest that pictorially expresses the depth of The Eight Limb path that helps us travel inwards. I believe this was originally from bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com Whilst Asana is certainly not the most important limb what I do believe is that for a beginner it is an easy start point from which you can practice all the other limbs. By remaining conscious we have the ability to practice so many of the principles of the eight limbs while in the poses, such as ahimsa-non violence by consciously choosing to not allow our ego to overly get involved and push ourselves to the point of harm, or have negative demoralizing thoughts about where we are at in the practice. We are also able to practice Santosha- or contentment, we can choose to feel annoyed and frustrated at our lack of improvement in Asana or we can be more self aware and develop a sense of peace and acceptance with where we are at. When Asana becomes difficult and uncomfortable it is an opportunity for us to practice coming back to the breath, regulating it, and being aware of it. This in turn allows the mind to become still, even if it is just for a moment in the beginning. This is an opportunity to practice Pranayama. When practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa and being deeply connected to the breath and movement within the practice I have moments of Dyana- Meditation. As a newbie I recognize they are only small moments, but nevertheless I am able to practice this on the mat. So what is Yoga to me- it is a way to slow down the mind, become more conscious and to commit myself to continue learning and studying. It is to get in touch with my true self. It is to learn to act out of love and not fear. Namaste xxx Tal June TTC 2015