“By the practice of the limbs of Yoga, the impurities dwindle away and there dawns the light of wisdom, leading to discriminative discernment.”
from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, chapter 2, verse 28; translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda.
I want to explore this concept of Ashtanga Yoga a bit more. I mentioned in a previous post that I wasn’t sure why Ashtanga yoga was called Ashtanga, when it seemed that the focus was primarily asana (posture) and pranayama (breath exercises). In the ashtanga classes I have taken, the other limbs are rarely mentioned.
The word Ashtanga is usually translated as Eight Limbs (ashta = eight; anga = limbs), or the Eight Fold Path. Every yoga teacher training that I am aware of (Ashtanga or otherwise) has at least an introduction to these eight limbs. The thing that I find odd is that these teachings are rarely, if ever, incorporated into yoga classes. I have been in classes where the teacher might mention a yama or niyama, but then gloss over it as if its not all that important, or worse, is embarassed to bring it in to the class because someone might be offended.
On the other hand, I have been in yoga classes with great teachers who have been willing to say…. here is how this philosophy applies to what you are doing on this mat today, and how you can carry it out into your life. Those teachers are special, willing to offer something that you might be able to chew on for a while. That’s what I like about yoga – that it is not just a form of exercise, but is something that can offer insights into how you live; something that can let you see deeper into yourself when on the mat.
So I decided to look a bit further into these eight limbs. For this, I go to the source: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The copy I am using is a translation with commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda. According to this translation, here are the definitions of the eight limbs of yoga:
Yama = abstinance
Niyama = observance
Asana = posture
Pranayama = breath control
Pratyahara = withdrawal of senses
Dharana = concentration
Dhyana = meditation
Samadhi = contemplation, absorption, or superconscious state
In the next few posts, I will go through these one by one, and think about each of them in the context of my own yoga practice and my every day life on and off of the mat. Stay tuned, and if you have input has we go forward, I would love to hear from you!
~ Namaste ~