“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim.
The better your practice, the brighter the flame.”
What Iyengar says in the above quote is a profound truth of yoga. Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras communicates that yoga is a practice of surrendering to a higher force and realizing that this force is within us and that there is no separation between the ego and the self. To realizethis, we have to start practicing.
One path of this practice is the 8 Limbs of Yoga for Liberation:
1. YAMAS : Ethical obligations (moral obligations). These help us how to behave within society and also towards ourselves and are:
- Ahimsa: Non-violence to others and to ourselves. It is a practice of compassion.
- Satya: Sincerity. It is living in our true and sincere self. Being sincere to others, to ourselves and educating others to be sincere as well. Sincerity aligns us more with our intentions and values.
- Asteya: Not to steal. It simply means that we do not take anything that is not ours. Being aware of our own limits and needs and being respectful of others’ time by honouring the energies of others.
- Brahmacharya: Not accumulating. It is the breaking of the threads of attachment to excess. It is the practice of self-control.
- Aparigraha: Not to desire. To be happy and content. The practice of acceptance and gratitude.
2. NIYAMAS: Observations of the self.
- Saucha: The purity of one’s own being. It is applying «Mindfulness» to one’s own practice and knowing how to observe without judgement.
- Santosha: Contentment. Practicing the purity of being and from here one can truly be happy and content without craving or longing for anything else.
- Tapas: Austerity. Returning to the practice of yoga every day. Day after day. And to develop awareness with our bodies, to respect them and not to be judgmental.
- Svadhyaya: Self-study. It is the practice of integrating purity of self, contentment, and austerity into a deep connection with my own self without judgement. Letting go of the mind and moving more intimately into our heart.
- Isvara Pranidhana: Devotion to a higher force. The practice is a devotion to «ishvara» or God. It leads to liberation and bliss.
3. ASANA: The physical practice of yoga – it is movement in meditation.
4. PRANAYAMA: Controlling the breath by focusing on an object.This pacifies the mindso we can arrive at a field of clear and calm thoughts.
5. PRATAYAHARA: Withdrawal from the senses. It is the bridge between the outer branches of yoga and the inner experience of yoga.
6. DHARANA: Concentration towards our practice, the feeling of gratitude. Here we begin to cultivate a state of concentration which may lead to meditative states.
7. DHYANA: Meditation. It is a state of being, not a practice, which is often misunderstood. Thoughts come and go, without our trying to catch, hold or follow them.
8. SAMADHI: This is the next state of being that arises from Dhyana. Here there is conscious and unconscious awareness of connection and union of origin. Connection of the self and of a divine union within us and outside of us
The practice of these eight branches for me is something very interesting. Starting with the Yamas and Niyamas and practicing Asanas, the body itself asks to continue practicing.
What Iyengar says in the quote above,is to follow this flame that you have within you and that does not go out anymore.When you have once started the practice of Yoga, the body asks, by itself, to do Asana and then Pranayama, etc, and to follow the other branches of yoga.
The last three branches: Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are not practices that can be learned. They are states of being or states of consciousness. This is an amazing journey for me and I have decided and committed to follow this path of the eight limbs of yoga.