patanjali's 8 limbs of yoga...

This week our focus is Patanjali’s 8 limbed path, guiding us to the goal of yoga which is to still the incessant ramblings of the mind, in order to realise our true nature and abide in it… to realise the Self beyond the ego, connecting body, mind and spirit.

Last week we covered the 4 yoga paths – Raja, Karma, Bhakti & Gnana. Our yoga path in the west being Raja or Royal yoga, following the 8 limbs which Patanjali summarised in his 195 yoga sutras, or verses. Patanjali is said to have been a sage who lived around 2,500 years ago (between 200BC and 500AD), and systematically catalogued the yoga teachings which spread across a broad range of ancient Indian scriptures, including the Upanishads (written ~ 800-500BC) and the Baghavad Gita (written ~ 400-200BC; part of the Mahabharata). The 195 verses or aphorisms were kept short as these teachings were memorised and passed down from teacher to student 5,000 years ago.

We incorporate the 8 limbs in our weekly practice. The first 2 limbs – the Yamas and Niyamas explain ways to live better with ourselves and others. We bring these in to our practice through our weekly focus, our self-enquiry and our approach – in being kind to ourselves and grateful for what we can do, accepting of our limitations. The 3rd limb is Asana, or the poses; the 4th Pranayama, our breathing techniques, then Pratyahara we practice as we withdraw the senses and focus on the pose or the breath; 6th Dharana is concentration, and we build concentration by focusing on our practice – each pose, the breath; 7th Dhyana is meditation and we practice a peace meditation each week before relaxation. These limbs guide us towards the 8th limb, Samadhi or self-realisation, often referred to as enlightenment or connection with the divine consciousness, where we realise our true nature, the Self beyond the ego, and abide in it.

In the coming weeks we’ll work through each of the 8 limbs.

  1. Yamas – universal morals

  2. Niyamas – personal observances

  3. Asana – physical poses

  4. Pranayama – breathing exercises

  5. Pratyhara – withdrawal of the senses

  6. Dharana - concentration

  7. Dhyana - meditation

  8. Samadhi – self-realisation

Reflecting this week on how you create more awareness of the interconnectedness of your body, mind and spirit. What environment or activities help you stay connected, and in flow with where you are and what you’re doing and who you are. Maybe taking time out to consciously follow the breath, taking a walking in nature, mindfully drinking a cup of tea, practicing a yoga pose…   Resolving to spend some time this week with awareness, in an environment or activity that supports you in connecting your body, mind and spirit.