The 8 Limbs of Yoga! Time to Reflect!
Yoga (from the Sanskrit ‘yuj’ – to yoke) has been around for roughly 5,000 years! It was an oral tradition, passed down from teacher to student. Around 2,000 years ago the sage Patanjali gathered together what was then known about yoga and proceeded to write the
95 Sutras (threads, wisdom pearls) which today, form the basis of our study of yoga. The Sutras form a tapestry of knowledge drawn from many traditions of Yoga.
In the second and third chapters of the Sutras, Patanjali described 8 disciplines or ‘limbs’ which must be practiced in order to perceive ‘the true self.’ Once the ‘true self’ was found, freedom or Kaivalya was achieved. Oh, how appealing is this! At any rate, Patanjali called this The 8 Limbs of Yoga, Ashtanga or The 8-Fold Path. (Not to be confused with the style of Yoga called “Ashtanga” which is a form of Yoga practiced widely in the West. For some reason, this aggressive, very tough style is quite popular, which is beyond me at this stage of life – physically and psychologically! But that is for another time!)
The Third Limb of Yoga, called Asanas, is all about the physical poses of Yoga. This is largely the aspect of Yoga that initially attracts many yogis to the practice. Yet, in addition to the myriad of physical benefits that the poses offer, practicing requires mental concentration and steadiness of mind, self-study of- and high regard for the physical body, as well as breath control. So, we could therefore state that the poses themselves are a meditation. They include aspects of the Yamas (Non-Violence, Truthfulness, nSelf-Study, Containment of Energy and ).
In the 2nd Sutra Patanjali lists The First Limb of Yoga – the Yamas and Niyamas –and especially the Yamas – these are of particular interest to me at this special time of year. Broadly, the Yamas are guidelines for getting along with the rest of the world. They include:
1. Ahimsa - Non Violence
2. Satya - Truthfulness
3. Asteya – Non-Stealing
4. Brahmacharya – Containment and Redirection of Life Force
5. Svadhyaya – Self Study
Non-Harming, Non-Violence. Hmmm. Peace on Earth. Goodwill Toward Men. Hmmmmm again. Where, oh where, did all of that go? Time to reflect on Ahimsa during this season of destruction and reparation of our Earth. And lots of prayer wouldn’t hurt!