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Eight limbs of Yoga: benefits to your mind and body

Yoga practice originated in ancient India, with a central philosophy focused on stillness in the mind and connecting with an awareness of one's inner self. From discipline and asana (physical practice) to breathwork, meditation and chanting all offering different benefits and find their origin in 8 limbs of yoga. I'd like to stop here and take a moment to highlight that yoga, is not a physical practice - this is asana. One of Eight limbs of yoga.

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root 'Yuj', meaning 'to join' or 'to yoke' or 'to unite'. As per Yogic scriptures the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, Man & Nature.

What is the purpose of these eight practices?

  • purify physical body and energy body

  • gain mastery over our senses 

  • become free from worldly illusions 

There is 8 limbs of yoga according to Patanjali and this includes:

  • Yama (Restraints) - can be translated into self-control. This is a quality we should always strive for. These include 5 yamas: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess and non-possessiveness.

  • Niyama (Observances) - this can be translated as moral observance and how we relate to the world. These include 5 niyamas: purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and surrender.

If you are intrigued and would like to learn more about the first 2 limbs of yoga, I recommend a book "The Yamas & Niyamas" by Deborah Adele.

  • Asana (Posture) - 3rd limb of yoga is Asana. Among the philosophy in the yoga sutras, this is the limb we have become most used to. It can be used to prepare the mind and body for physical observation. According to the yoga sutras, the physical asanas purify our bodies in preparation for the remaining limbs. Because the body should be balanced and free from suffering, and the mind should be steady. 

  • Pranayama (Breath Control) - Several types of Pranayama exercises purify the energy body (i.e. the chakra system, energy channels, meridians, etc). Pranayama can increase your ability to carry prana – life-force energy – in your body. Prana is the force we want to measure and use in our physical activities like speaking, thinking, digestion, etc. They facilitate improving the state of your bodily systems. Also, promoting harmony between the right and left hemispheres of the brain!

  • Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the Senses) - This means using the senses for essential activities and not getting involved in overstimulation. When we practice Pratyahara, we guide our senses and also our sensory organs. We try to prevent an overload of sensory stimulation and unnecessary stimulation as well. For example: 

  • Closing the eyes in meditation

  • Using Pranayama to quiet the mind 

  • Dharana (Concentration) - We learn to transfer all 5 senses to one single object or purpose of focus. The purpose of Dharana is to regulate the mind. There are numerous techniques we can use to observe Dharana. For example:

    • concentration on the breath

    • candle gazing,

    • Japa (chanting)

  • Dhyana (Meditation) - Here, meditation means being connected to one’s true self. In this state, you are ready to observe your true self without the interference of your mind or senses.

  • Samadhi (Pure Contemplation) - Freedom from illusion. During this state, you become free from the illusions of time and space. This can be a state of pure elation and better awareness. In this state, you understand your true Self. In the yoga sutras, the eight sharp limbs of the Path of Yoga lead us to the present moment.

These Eight Limbs of Yoga offers practical steps for holistic personal development.

Specific practices work to balance and harmonise the bodies of our existence. I'm talking here about the bodies we are made up of, as according to yoga philosophy each and one of us is made up of three complex bodies, each consisting of multiple layers that are essential to our existence. To learn more about this, read my blog post about 5 layers of existence.

Here are some benefits that you find from practicing yoga:

  • Better self awareness, compassion and contentment

  • Reduced stress levels, alleviation of anxiety and depression

  • Deeper self connection

  • Improved flexibility, mobility and strength

  • Eased body aches

  • Improved metabolism and digestion

  • Improved focus and concentration

  • Regulation of sleep patterns

Watch this video to learn more about origin and benefits of yoga to our body and mind:

Hope you enjoyed the read. Let me know about your thoughts and experience of this. What is your favourite yoga practice?

with love

Sylwia x

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