Yoga Teacher Training & The Eight-Limb Path
Today I wanted to share something we have been talking about in Yoga Teacher Training: The Eight Limb Path. The Eight Limbs identify a road map of how to live with a greater sense of purpose through the practice of Yoga.
The Eight Limbs:
1) Yamas 2) Niyamas 3) Asana 4) Pranayama
5) Pratyahara 6) Dharana 7) Dhyana 8) Samadhi
I have always been a follower of rules. I grew up in a household that valued order, religion, and a strong sense of moral codes. Rules make sense to me, and in some ways my path to Yoga has been one of breaking free of the rules I have established for myself. It has allowed me to see that Yoga is more than just something you do on a weekend, but rather a practice in moving through daily life.
The Eight-Limb Path of Yoga describes a personal journey with the goal of reaching a state of bliss and higher self. In following the Yamas (the don’ts) and the Niyamas (the do’s) we establish a foundation in which to build upon. Next on the path is Asana or postures which sometimes is how many Yogi’s, (including myself), have come to the mat. Many start with the poses; the physical practice of movement. With this can come the profound practice of linking breath with movement. Breathing with intention we begin to welcome Pranayama. When we deepen into a pose, hold, and breah, an “A-HA” moment can happen. You realize that it is more than just moving and breathing, it is a way of living with purpose and presence. This for some can lead back to the Yamas, and Niyamas and focusing on them as a code of Yoga conduct. After spending time incorporating these into practice you begin to learn how to turn inward and tune out the distractions of the outside, reaching the stage of Pratyahara. This however is only the beginning. It is one thing to turn inward and limit outside distractions, but it is another to begin to concentrate (Dharana) and stay in it. In fact dharana actually means “to hold” in sanskrit. For me this can be one of the hardest parts because after moving, breathing, and turning inward, it can be an effort to hold this place of concentration. This comes back to the Niyamas: Svadhyaya, or self study. It takes practice, self study and also Santosa (contentment) to stay where you are at.. here, now.
Moving forward beyond concentration is Dhyana or meditation. Many think this stage is about nothingness, but rather meditation is a sense of awareness that is present, quiet, and still. Allowing for a meditation practice in Yoga brings about a self awareness which ultimately is believed to lead to Samadhi or “bliss.” This eighth limb on the path recognizes the union of the self through the practice of meditation. You are one with yourself and the universe. This is what we all strive for in our lives but because our paths become twisting, winding (and sometimes halted), we rarely can achieve. My interpretation of Samadhi is not necessarily living constantly in a state of bliss, but rather achieving moments of this magical union, and taking pause. Because recognizing these sacred moments… that itself is Yoga.