The 8 Limbs of Yoga
The eight limbs(or stages) of yoga are collectively known as ‘Ashtanga Yoga’. It is derived from the Sanskrit word Ashta meaning”eight” and Anga meaning “limbs”. Together the term Ashtanga gives the meaning “eight limbs”. The eight limbs are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. Let us see about each yoga stage. The completion of all these stages makes one to attain the ultimate divine energy of the universe.
Yama is eternal which lasts forever. The never ending Yama is the tendency to prevent violence(ahimsa) and possesiveness. It inspires an individual to be honest, have pure thoughts(aparigraha), have moral sense, be trustworthy(asteya) and be truthful(satya). Yama, the Sanskrit word is also known as Yamaraja in India. Yamaraja is the God and King of Hell.
Yamaraja is also referred to as Dharmaraja. Buffalo is the vehicle of Yamaraja. According to the portrayals he has a dark skinned body with a stick (Dand) in his his hand. Yamaraja is one of the teachers of Bhagwata. Totally there are twelve teachers.
Niyama deals with controlling the organs of perception and following the rules and regulations. The various organs are the nose, eyes, ears, tongue and skin. According to Niyama an individual gets self purification(sauca) through discipline(tapas), contentment(santosha), understanding himself (Svadhyaya) by acquiring knowledge and finally surrendering himself to God(Isvara Pranidhana). Here knowledge includes the learning of Holy scripts.
Asana comprises of different body postures which on practicing gives clear mind, inner awareness and healthy body. Asanas enhances the physical and mental well being of an individual. There area large number of yogasanas satisfying different needs. Asanas have become alternate medicines. The commonly practiced postures are shown in the picture. There are about 84 asanas and each posture has different benefits.
It comes from a Sanskrit word “prana” which means “restraint of the prana(or breath)”. It is the rhythmic, regular and prolonged control of breath. Its aim is to discover the force of mind and soul. The three divisions of pranayama are Yoga Pranayamas, Samyama Pranayamas and Shakti Pranayamas. Yoga Pranayamas deals with body stability, health and endurance. Samyama Pranayamas improves conscentration and prepares mind for higher conscious levels. Shakti Pranayamas activates the Kundalini force.
Pratyahara is the withdrawal of senses(Indriya Pratyahara) and the withdrawal of prana(Prana Pratyahara). According to it one must give up all his emotions, sentiments and pleasures. An individual should not have any external attractions. Different practices are involved in Pratyahara. The common practice is Pranyama – the art of breathing. Next is the concentration technique which is done by concentrating the point between two eyebrows. And the final practice is the concentration of a particular sense such as hearing. When a person practices these techniques at advanced levels then even electric current cannot pass through his nerve fibers.
It is derived from a Sanskrit word which means “to hold”. It is the sixth vital step of yoga. It is the starting step of intense concentrated meditation which improves the mental stability.
It is the penultimate stage and the seventh vital limb of yoga. It is the intense meditation with inner awareness. It is practiced along with Dharana and Samadhi. Dhyana has four progressive states according to Buddhism.
The final stage of Yoga Sutra. It is achieved through severe and profound meditation and takes one to the state of super consciousness. Samadhi is classified as Laya Samadhi, Savikalpa Samadhi, Nirvikalpa Samadhi and Sahaja Samadhi. Samadhi is the state of super consciousness and total equilibrium.