Yoga’s 8 Limbs: Roadmap for Life

8 limbs

When people think of yoga, usually they think of the physical poses of yoga. Asana, or physical poses, is just one of the eight branches.  Yoga is oh so much more than that.

What is yoga?

Yoga, once thought of as an esoteric Indian practice, has become as American as jogging. In Sanskrit, yoga means “union”.  This is an apt description because yoga connects, or unifies, the mind and the body. Yoga also helps to join the ups and downs of everyday life into a unified whole, so that we experience life in a more integrated way.

The Eight Limbs

The yogic path to balancing mind and body and living a meaningful, fulfilling life involves principles that are collectively called “The Eight Limbs”.

Limb One: Yamas-These are the ethical standards we strive to uphold

There are five Yamas

  • Ahimsa:nonviolence
  • Satya:Truthfulness
  • Asteya: Nonstealing
  • Brahmacharya: Continence
  • Aparigraha: Noncovetness

Limb Two: Niyamas–  The five types refer to self discipline and spiritual observances

There are five Niyamas

  • Saucha: Cleanliness
  • Samtosa: Contentment
  • Tapas: Heat and spiritual austerity
  • Svadhyaya: The study of any sacred scripture
  • Isvara Pranidhana

Limb Three:Asanasinclude all of the postures

This is what we think of when we think yoga: the physical practice of the poses. There is a tendency to believe this is all there is to yoga. In fact, this is only 1/8 of the package!

Limb Four: PranayamaBreath Control

An essential part of our yoga practice, and of life, is the breath. Pranayama refers to the breath as life force. It defines our entry into the world and its cessation defines our departure.

Limb Five: Pratyahara.  Another way to think of this is as mindfulness. It is how we observe our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. Defined as sensory withdrawal, it is a redirection of our focus, turned internally

Limb Six: Dharana– This refers to intense concentration. It is when we get rid of distractions and become self observant.

Limb Seven:Dhyana_When the mind quiets, we are experience dhyana. Another word for it is meditation.

Limb Eight- Samadhi-Yay! This is Ecstasy! Enlightenment! Peace!

I will be posting articles that include discussions of  how the understanding of each limb can enhance body image and even deepen sexual expression.

So now when you read about the 8 limbs and sex, you know it is not about the couple’s arms and legs (which would total 8 limbs)!






It Is Not a Contest


By  Elayne Daniels, PhD, adapted from Sheryl Paul
I was at Stop and Shop over the weekend buying groceries.
The lines were long. While waiting in line I took at look at the magazine covers. Many of them had headlines that could easily elicit panic. “Get rid of the winter flab before Spring”! “Cleanse now!” “Are you pudgy in the middle? You are at risk for a heart attack”!
Much has been written about the ridiculousness of diet and weight loss tips on  magazine covers. I haven’t seen as much of a critique, though, on the ridiculous sex advice plastering magazine covers.





Some cultures, like ours, are fraught with misconceptions about what is healthy and sustainable in a long-term sexual relationship.

“Shoulds” tend to prevail.

How about learning truths about sex that you usually don’t read about in magazines? My dissertation research in the 1990s  included the topic of sexual fantasies. I collected the fantasies of 50 or so women. In my 17 year private psychotherapy practice, men and women often talk about their sexual concerns. My guy friends and girl friends also talk with me about sex. Lastly, I attend conferences on different sex related topics. So, I have lots of opportunity to hear what is real.

Instead of perceiving that “everyone else…..” (fill in the blank, e.g. has sex everyday), considering the more likely reality may alleviate some anxiety. More energy will then be available for yourself and your relationships.

Here are some truths about sex:

1. A healthy sex life is whatever works for the two of you.

For some couples, that may mean sex three times a week and for others that means once a month. We’re all wired differently, and every couple carries a unique set of needs and desires that will not be replicated in any other relationship.

2. There’s usually a high-need partner and a low-need partner.

There’s often one partner who has a higher sex drive and one who has a lower. We tend to think that men are always the high-need partner but that’s not always true. This can also change from relationship to relationship. In other words: if you were the pursuer in your previous relationship but the distancer is your current relationship, you may have been the high-need partner and are now the low-need. As with every aspect of couplehood, the challenge is to find creative ways to grow toward each other while also preserving your sense of self.

3. Sex isn’t only what occurs in the bedroom.

In a culture that likes to categorize and compartmentalize, many people carry a belief that says that sex is only what happens between the sheets. This mindset invalidates cuddles, flirtations, sweet kisses in the kitchen, and all other forms of sexual affection that may fill in the times between what we typically think of as “actual” sex. So when the magazines splatter the anxiety-provoking “Are you having enough sex?” across the cover, you can assess your sex life from a more well-rounded perspective by including all sexual interactions and probably answer yes.

4. Sex isn’t only about outcome.

Likewise, in our goal-oriented and achievement-oriented culture we tend to believe that “sex doesn’t count” unless you go all the way and both people achieve orgasms. What a limited view! Sex is kissing, touching, roaming, and caressing. And more than all of that, a truly healthy sexual relationship is one in which both people feel safe to express and explore their sexuality together. Emotional safety will always preclude a real sexual connection. Lying naked together and simply holding each other can be some of the most vulnerable and beautiful times you spend together.

The bottom line is that most couples in a long-term relationship will experience struggle around sex at some point. Just knowing this, instead of comparing yourself to the false fantasy that everyone else has a flawless sex life, alleviates shame and can free up space in the relationship to talk openly about this with acceptance.

As always, the more acceptance you bring to who you are and how the two of you relate to each other, the more joy and fulfillment you’ll find in all aspects of your relationship


dragonflies mating

I love dragonflies.

One of the reasons is that when they mate, their tails form a heart.

Plus…look at the colors and the textures…gorgeous.