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The 8 Limbs of Yoga Explained

The 8 Limbs of Yoga Explained

19 Jul 2019
Kuredu Maldives Resort Yoga

We’ve written about yoga’s benefits here, and in this special yoga feature Elli Lorbeer, who’ll be running a yoga retreat here in the beautiful surrounds of Kuredu Resort Maldives, explains what the 8 limbs of yoga are.

According to Patanjali, the reputed author of the Yoga Sutra, and often referred to as the founder of yoga, these eight steps or guidelines are a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline. As each stage prepares you for the next, ultimately reaching the final stage of samadhi – the experience of bliss and being at one with the universe – it is essential that you progress slowly and enjoy your unique journey as you go.

1. Yama
Ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on your behaviour and how you conduct yourself in life. The five yamas are nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, continence, noncovetousness.

2. Niyama
Self-discipline and spiritual observances. The five niyamas are cleanliness, contentment, spiritual austerities, study of the sacred scriptures and of one’s self, surrender to God. Developing your own personal meditation practice or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are examples of niyamas in practice.

In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit and taking care of it is important for your spiritual growth. The third limb are asanas, the postures practiced in yoga, which help you to concentrate, but still your focus will shift as you fine-tune the many nuances of any particular posture. There are many different asanas and each one will benefit you in a different way.

4. Pranayama
The literal translation for pranayama is “life force extension” and can also be translated as breath control and is the fourth limb. It consists of various breathing techniques designed to master the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, mind and the emotions. Pranayama can be practiced as an isolated technique or you integrate it into your yoga routine.

5. Pratyahara
It’s during this stage that you make the conscious effort to draw your awareness away from the external world and directing your attention internally. The practice of pratyahara provides you with the opportunity to step back and take a look at yourself. This withdrawal allows you to objectively observe your habits, which likely interfere with your inner growth.

6. Dharana
Dharana means concentration, you focus your attention on a single point. Having relieved yourself of the outside distractions during pratyahara, you can now deal with the distractions of the mind itself. No easy task! In the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, you learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object: a specific energetic center in the body, an image of a deity, or the silent repetition of a sound. Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation.

7. Dhyana
Meditation or contemplation, the seventh stage, is the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Although concentration (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana) may appear to be one and the same, a fine line of distinction exists between these two stages. Dharana practices one-pointed attention and Dhyana is the ultimate stage of being keenly aware without focus. The mind has been quieted and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all. While this may seem a difficult if not impossible task, remember that yoga is a process and you benefit at every stage of your progress.

8. Samadhi
The final stage is samadhi and Patanjali describes the eighth stage as a state of ecstasy. Where the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the Self altogether and realizes an interconnectedness with all living things. With this realization comes the experience of bliss and being at one with the universe. If you pause to examine what you really want to get out of life, would not joy, fulfilment and freedom somehow find their way onto your list of hopes, wishes and desires? What Patanjali has described as the completion of the yogic path is what, deep down, all human beings aspire to: peace. The ultimate stage of yoga – enlightenment – can neither be bought nor possessed, it can only be experienced.

There are still spaces available on the Ohana Yoga Studio retreat at Kuredu that will take place 29th September to 6th October 2019.

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Elli Kuredu yoga retreat