By Linda Anastasia Ransom and Sharon Story
The Eight Limbs of Yoga comes from a book called The Yoga Sutras. It was written in approximately 200 AD by the sage Patanjali. This eightfold path is a guideline for how to live a meaningful and purposeful life, which brings attentiveness towards one’s health, morals, ethics, and self-discipline. This path facilitates finding one’s own true nature.
The first limb: Yama, relates to the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Yamas focus on our behavior and how we handle ourselves in life, our ethical standards, and our sense of integrity. There are five Yama:
Satya: truthfulness, honesty
Brahmacharya: moderation and dedication to the understanding of Divinity, moderation, self control, self-respect, and love regarding one’s creative and procreative energies
Aparigraha: non-hoarding, non-greed, non-covetousness
The second limb, Niyama, deals with practices of the heart, qualities to be cultivated individually to live a happy joyful life, and personal internal observations. There are five Niyamas:
Saucha: purity, internally and externally; cleanliness
Santosa: contentment, reducing desires, becoming cheerful, and creating balance of mind
Tapas: zeal, fire-self discipline, heat, discipline in the mind and body and directing the mind towards the self within
Svadhyaya: self-study the source of our actions, learning and search for truth and self-realization
Isvara Pranidhana: devotion, surrendering to God, the Divine of your choice, or the powers that be, and abiding to the greater will
The third limb, Asana, is the physical practice of yoga. Asanas are the postures practiced in yoga. Iyengar says: “Our body is a temple of spirit, the care of which is an important stage of our spiritual growth.”
The fourth limb, Pranayama, is mindful and rhythmic control of the breath. The literal translation of pranayama is “life force extension.”
The fifth limb, Pratyahara, means turning inward, withdrawal of the senses. When information hits the senses (touch, smell, hearing, sight, and taste) the mind is stimulated. Pratyahara teaches us to withdraw from this external stimulation and bring our focus inward.
The sixth limb, Dharana, means concentration. We begin to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object. Choosing a symbol, an image of a deity, or a mantra helps the attention come to a single point.
The seventh limb, Dhyana, is meditation. The mind is quiet and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts. Dhyana is a state of being profoundly aware without focus.
The eighth limb, Samadhi, is a blissful union of the self with the Divine, a state of super-consciousness.
Yama and Niyama control the yogi’s passions and emotions and keep him or her in harmony with others.
Asanas keep the body healthy, strong and in harmony with nature, helping the body to become a fit vehicle for the soul.
Pranayama and Pratyahara teach the yogi to control the breath and the mind. This helps to free the senses from attachments and objects of desire.
Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi bring the yogi to the ultimate resource, the soul. The yogi does not look towards heaven to find the Divine. The yogi knows that God is within the inner self. The last three stages bring the yogi in harmony with the true self.
The Tree of the Eight Limbs of Yoga and the Chakras
First Limb of Yoga: Yama is the roots. Ethical standards and how we conduct ourselves in life.
First Chakra: Tailbone. Representing foundation and stability. Color is red.
Second Limb of Yoga: Niyama is the trunk. Self-discipline and internal observances.
Second Chakra: Sacrum. Representing sexual, creativity. Color is orange.
Third Limb of Yoga: Asana is the branches. Postures and care for the body.
Third Chakra: Solar plexus. Representing emotions, self-esteem. Color is yellow.
Fourth Limb of Yoga: Pranayama is the leaves. Breath.
Fourth Chakra: Heart. Representing love for self and others. Color is green.
Fifth Limb of Yoga: Pratyahara is the bark. Withdrawing of senses.
Fifth Chakra: Throat. Representing communication. Color is blue.
Sixth Limb of Yoga: Dharana is the sap. Focus and concentration.
Sixth Chakra: Third eye. Representing intuition. Color is indigo.
Seventh Limb of Yoga: Dhyana is the fruit. Meditation.
Seventh Chakra: Crown. Representing spiritual connection. Color is purple.
Eighth Limb of Yoga: Samadhi is the fruit. Bliss, universal union, Divine.
Eighth Chakra: Crystal. Representing cosmic connection. Color is white.
~ Namaste ~