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Fascinating insights into the 8 limbs of Yoga Philosophy by Patanjali

8 Limbs Yoga PatanjaliYoga Philosophy by Patanjali

Maharishi Patanjali was the creator of the 8 limbs of Yoga, a well-known philosophy from the Yoga Sutras. He was an ancient sage, legendary yogi, and historical enigma. Patanjali was believed to be alive in the second century BCE. However, many myths have surrounded his life and accomplishments.
Even to this day, many historians remain puzzled over his existence. Some believe this is due to the anonymity that is common among many ancient Indian sages, yogis, and philosophers. This is often because they choose to live a reserved life, to enable a greater pursuit of the spiritual realms. Passing their findings on through literature and a few select students. The students would accredit their success to their teachers, and their teachers would do the same to their teachers. As they recognized that their knowledge was attained through a collective of several generations, who had chosen to pass the wisdom down. Which comes to the other most popular belief, that Patanjali was simply a name for a collective of people.
Often, great spiritual leaders, especially of Hindu origin, come into the world through mystic dimensions. Patanjali was no different. He was believed to be the incarnation of the 1000 head serpent king that fell from heaven in the form of a snake. While his mother is believed to be a powerful, virgin yogini called Gonika.
Some believed that he was the father of Ayurvedic practices, writing significant pieces on the ancient Indian medicine system. While others questioned if he truly existed, or if he was simply a collective of scholars. But the truth is, nobody really knows. However the work of “Patanjali” has lived on for decades after.
The Yoga Sutras, one of Patanjali’s most renowned works, was written during the 1st century BCE. It is the core of a lot of yoga practices, philosophy, and styles that we see today. Within the book, there are 196 Indian sutras. The Sanskrit word sutras translate directly to rule or aphorism. So these sutras are essentially guidelines and observations on virtuous habits, healthy practices, and ethical observations. All of which aim to guide an individual to achieve holistic contentment and a life free from suffering and illusions.

8 Limbs of Yoga - Ashtanga

The 8 Limbs of Yoga are the core teachings of The Yoga Sutras. It is the 8 fold path to a life of freedom from suffering and illusion. Practicing these pathways is believed to open our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits to new heights of joy, happiness and contentment.

In our article “The Modern Meaning of Yamas and Niyamas” we explore the deeper perspectives of how the Yamas assist our external life, and the Niyamas progress our interpersonal worlds.

Patanjali’s 8 Fold Path

1. Yama : Universal morality

Ahiṃsā - Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings
Satya - truthfulness, non-falsehood
Asteya - non-stealing
Brahmacharya - chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint
Aparigraha - non-avarice, non-possessiveness

2. Niyama :   Personal observances

Śauca - purity, clearness of mind, speech and body
Santoṣa - contentment, acceptance of others and of one's circumstances as they are, optimism for self
Tapas - austerity, self-discipline, persistent meditation, perseverance
Svādhyāya - study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self's thoughts, speeches and actions
Īśvarapraṇidhāna - contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality), attunement to the supreme consciousness.

3. Asanas : Body Postures

Asana is a stable and comfortable posture which helps to attain mental equilibrium. In yoga, it is common to refer to the body as the temple of the spirit. Through the practice of asanas we develop discipline, concentration, and awareness, which enhances our ability to meditate.

 

4. Pranayama : Breathing Exercises, and Control of Prana

It is a way to gain control over the respiratory functions. It recognizes the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions. The literal definition of Pranayama is “life force extension”. Through practicing pranayama it is believed to clear and heal the stagnant energies in our systems, creating vitality.

5. Pratyahara :  Control of the Senses

The practice of withdrawal of the senses. Bringing awareness but detachment from the external stimuli of the world, directing the focus inwards. This practice provides us an opportunity to step back and tack a look at ourselves, and our inner voice and thoughts. Enabling us to look out our habits and addictions, seeing how we are unconsciously affecting ourselves.
 

6. Dharana : Concentration and Cultivating Inner Perceptual Awareness

After learning to detach from the external world and focusing inwards, we now aspire to practice dharana. The art of concentration. Created to deal with the distractions of the mind.

After enhancing our ability to be self-observant through pratyahara, the next step is aiming to focus on a single point or goal. Such as creating space between our thoughts. So that we may bring more mindfulness and in turn awareness and control of our mind. This is the first stages of meditation.

7. Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine

There are many forms of meditation. But most often it can never be taught, it is only ever felt by practicing the basic methodologies. Once you gain control of your mind, focus and sense perception you will feel one with all inside and outside of you. No longer feeling separate from the objects sounds and senses. That is the true art of meditation.

 

8. Samadhi :  Union with the Divine

Is a state of super bliss, through the joy of merging individual consciousness into universal consciousness. It is the union of Shiva and Shakti, masculine and feminine. It is the connection to the divine realization of the beauty of life.

Conclusion
So are you ready to start your journey towards health, vitality, and presence?
The 8 fold path works best practicing from step 1 through to Step 8. There is no true success of fulfillment of this path, as it can be walked again and again. Finding new insights and heights of awareness with every practice.
Spirituality is not a destination, it is a journey, and like every journey there are hills, mountains, rivers, storms and meadows. Life will always change, and grow in new ways. What we must learn is to adapt and feel the presence of divinity in all forms of life. From flowers, to weeds, from meadows to deserts, to saints and dictators. Everything and everyone possess goodness in their own forms, but it takes a truly wise man to see it. We must learn to remain detached, and perceive without prejudice, in order to see the true beauty of life and all of it’s creations. If we remained attached to our expectations of reality, which to a large degree is outside of our control, we will experience much more suffering than necessary. As to be truly happy and free, one must know what is inside of our control and what isn’t. While life might be outside of our control for the most part, our perceptions of life are not. Our freedom to create and grow our own thoughts and mind garden, is our greatest gift for contentment and happiness. It allows us to be gods of our own realities.

“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.”

– Swami Vivekananda

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