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
- 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:Asanas– include 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: Pranayama–Breath 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)!