Self-knowledge or self-realization is the main goal in Yoga. Consistent practice is scientifically proven to improve health, flexibility, strength, vitality, concentration, balance, peace of mind, mental clarity, awareness, and joy. The 8 Sutras (limbs/steps) of Yoga, help overcome the veils of illusion in order to reach self-realization. These 8 limbs are described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, which are the first ever written history of yoga that has been passed down over several thousand years. Ashtanga Yoga means Union of the 8 Limbs. This yoga seeks to embody the traditional 8 limbs of yoga. Through this path we work toward the purification of the body and mind using the 8 limbs. As you practice Yoga, the veil of Maya (illusion) becomes thinner. Maya has two powers, it hides reality and projects illusion. Our mind tends to fluctuate to Maya because we believe it is real and end up discarding our true reality. Yoga can be a practical method to liberate you from unnecessary pain and confusion (illusion) through the integration and rediscovery of your true self. Making you more aware of your real identity.
People, things, opportunities… Will all come to you when you are aligned with your truth. You will not have to go searching for experiences. Every experience is an opprotunity to learn something new. When you surrender to what is, things happen and you will learn from them. You attract what you are, therefore, everyone you meet is a mirror image of yourself. If there is something you don’t like about someone, it is an opprotunity to look at yourself and fix what it is you don’t like about yourself. Don’t hesitate change. If you cannot change, let go. Accept things as they are. Every difficulty is meant to spring you further in your journey. Everything that is going on in your life is meant to move you forward. So, get through it, reap the rewards and move on.
These 8 limbs are described as follows:
1) Yama- moral discipline or restrictions. What we should NOT do.
- Ahimsa- non-violence
- Satya- not lying (truth telling, honesty)
- Asteya- not stealing
- Bahmacharya- sexual continence, forbearance, moderation, bodily purity
- Aparigrha- absence of greed
2) Niyama- self observation, behaviors, things we SHOULD DO or practice.
- Saucha- purity, cleanliness, physical and mental
- Santosha- gratitude, contentment
- Tapah- austerity, modesty, sacrifice, acceptance, removal of impurities
- Svadhyaya- study of the scriptures, Japa or prayers, observance of vows
- Isvarapranidhanani- acceptance of God, devotion to God; surrender
3) Asana- stability, position, posture. Physical practice of the asanas leads to the stability of the mind. Cleanses the channels of negative energy; unblocked.
4) Pranayama- meaning “Life-Force”, this practice requires serious practice of the breath. Control of Prana through breathing techniques. Brings in positive energy, nourishes, and strengthens.
5) Pratyahara- sensory control, withdrawal of the senses from outside; relaxation.
6) Dharana- concentration. Focus of the mind on a single object, a feeling, a thought, a picture, a song, the breath.. etc., can still the mind.
7) Dhyana- meditation or contemplation.Spontaneous state of mind that happens from the practice of meditation and peaceful state of mind.
8) Samadhi- bliss, nirvana, pure consciousness; self knowledge or self realization. This stage is the result of all other 7 steps; liberation, enlightenment, integration. Here you are in the whole and the whole is in you.
- You will notice that asana (pose) is number 3 on the list. Meaning that we need to be practicing yoga on AND off the mat in order to reach full enlightenment. After my morning practice, I like to take an extra 10-15 mins to do some breathing exercises and meditation. I like to recite mantras while I meditate to help keep my mind focused on one single object. I also like to give of myself in service, whether it be lending an ear or a hand. I even like to pick one Yoga/Spiritual book a day, open up to a random page and read until I feel like I’ve gotten my dose of jnana yoga aka knowledge. These are just a few ways I like to practice off the mat… What are some of your favorite ways to practice off the mat? Please share below in the comments.