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The Eight Limbs of Yoga

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A guide to the eight steps of Yoga..

The practice of Yoga is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body and spirit. Its objective is to assist the practitioner in using the breath and body to foster an awareness of ourselves as individualized beings intimately connected to the unified whole of creation.

It is balancing and creating equanimity as to live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is the sacred text describing the inner workings of the mind and providing eight limbs of the path that form a structural framework for Yoga practice.

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The Eight limbs of Yoga: (or steps to yoga)

1.Yama: Universal morality
2.Niyama: Personal observances
3.Asanas Body postures (originated from the meaning “seat)
4. Pranayama: Breathing exercises and control of Prana (energy)
5. Pratayahara: Control of the senses
6. Dharan: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana: Devotion and meditation on the divine
8. Samadhi: Union with the divine The first two limbs that Patanjali describes are the fundamental ethical limbs of how we use energy in relation to others and ourselves. They suggest how we should deal with people around us and our attitude towards ourselves.

Niyana and Yama:
How we relate to ourselves inwardly is called Niyana and how we relate to others is Yama.
Yamas are broken into five wise characteristics of nature to cultivate compassion, generous honesty and peaceful being.
The five characteristics of Yama:
1.Ahimsa: Compassion of all living things
2.Satya: Commitment to truthfulness
3.Asteya: Non-stealing
4:Brahmacharya: Sense of control (responsible behavior with respect to moving forward in truth)
5. Aparigaha: Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth (avoid greed)

Niyama
1.Sauca: Purity and practicing healthy habits for functioning of our bodily organs as with the clarity of our minds
2.Santosa: Contentment, modesty and feelings of being content even when we are experiencing life difficulties and circumstances. Karma is the understanding ofcultivating contentment and accepting what happens.
3.Tapas: Disciplined use of our energy. Tapas helps us burn up all the desires that stand in the way of cultivating union with the divine.
4.Svadhayaya: Inquiry and examination, self-reflective consciousness. Finding self-awareness in all our activities and efforts.
5.Isvarapanidhana: Celebration of the spiritual. The practicing of setting aside time everyday to recognize the omnipresent form larger than ourselves guiding and directing the course of our lives.

Asanas: Body Postures and physical postures that foster quieting the mind and preparing for meditation. They release the flow and inner strength that one develops and brings about in a profound grounding spirituality in the body. The action is a vehicle toexpand consciousness.

Pranayama: The measuring of control and directing of the breath. It controls the energy within to nurture and maintain health and promote evolution with balancing the breath, as well as directing inward to the chakra system and upward to the crown chakra.
The conjunction between Pranayama and Asana is very important. They are the highest form of purification and self-discipline for the body and mind. Pratyahara Implies withdrawal of the senses from attachments toexternal objects.
It’s the practice of non-attachment to sensorial distractions as we return to the path of self-realization and achievement of internal peace. Our senses stop feeding off things that stimulate and we no longer depend on stimulants. The vital forces are flowing back to the source within and therefore one can be free of distraction.
Meditation is a great vehicle to achieve this. Patanjali says that the process of Pratyahara is to avoid unhappiness and uneasiness. People that seek yoga hope to find that inner peace, as yoga is the process that enables us to stop and look at the process of our own minds.

Dhahran: This is the concentration and cultivation of inner perceptive awareness. The sixth stage is about concentration wholly on a single point or task in which we are totally engrossed. The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve the state of complete absorption. The objective is to steady the mind by focusing its attention upon some stable entity. Here we let go of“I” and “mine,” becoming purified to unleash the great potential for inner healing. Dhyana Devotion and meditation on the divine, or worship or religious meditation upon a point of focus, with the intention of knowing the truth about the universal spirit. Consciousness is further unified by combining clear insights into distinctions between objects and subtle layers of perceptions as we further our practice. The only reality is the universal self of god.

Samadhi: The final step known to be a difficult task is the union with the divine on the path of yoga. To“bring together or merge” with the divine. Asanas, Pranayama Pratyahara Dharan and Dhyana all prepare us, and then Samadhi can be attained. The body and senses are at rest as if asleep, yet our mind and faculty of the mind are alert. One goes beyond consciousness to realize our identity without differences and how a liberated soul can enjoy pure awareness of this pure identity. The eight steps of yoga indicate a logical pathway that lead to attainment of physical, ethical, emotional and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga doesn’t aim to change the individual. Rather it allows the natural state of total heath and integration in each of us to become reality.

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