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What is the 8-Limbed Path? (Hint: there's more to yoga than downward dog)

One of the things that continuously fascinates me about yoga is just how much there is to learn about the subject.

In fact, I doubt I'll ever learn all there is to know about yoga.

It's that vast. 

Play a game with me:  When someone says the word "yoga" to you, what do you think?

If I were a betting sort of lady, I'd bet that you imagined someone forming a pose.  Perhaps that someone was wearing some awesome leggings.  (I really love yoga pants). 

& you know what? I'm there with you.  When I go to a yoga studio, I'm excited mostly about the postures that I am going to form with my body.  The postures might relax me, invigorate me, open up a specific chakra, or help me to become physically stronger.

But here's the awesome thing:

Yoga is an 8-limbed path.  If you've heard of Ashtanga yoga, the name literally translates to "eight limbed."

In other words: there's more to yoga than downward dog.

Let's start with the definition of yoga.  In Sanskrit, "yoga" comes from the word "to yoke," or to unite.  Yoga is union.  A union of the mind, body, breath, and spirit.  A union of breath with movement.  A union of self with spirit.  A union of spirit with the universe.

Pantanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutras, says that "Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward and object and sustain that direction without any distractions." (1.2)

In his Yoga Sutras, Pantanjali lays out a 8-part plan for gaining focus of the mind and releasing mental distration, doubts, fatigue, illusions, over-efforting, and general negativity.

Sounds good, right?

Here's the path, all laid out:

1. Yama, or principles on how to act in our environment.  We are to do no harm, tell the truth, take only what is ours, be free from greed, and the respect of our own energy when it interacts with others.

2.  Niyama, or how to act towards ourselves.  We are to be clean, happy, disciplined.  We are to study the self and be devoted to the divine force.

3. Asana, or the practice of moving the body into postures.

4.  Pranayama, or the practice of breathing exercises. 

5.  Pratyahara, or the release of the senses.

6.  Dharana, or the ability to concentrate on an object

7.  Dhyana, or meditation

8.  Samadhi, or complete integration of all of the above principles in our life.  In other words: BLISS.

Pantanjali says, "The attainment of clarity is a gradual process" (2.27).  In other words, there is no rush.  There is only practice.

How can you incorporate one of these aspects into your day?  Perhaps you practice "do no harm" by eating a vegetarian diet for the day.  Perhaps you move the body in asana.  Perhaps you practice right nostril breathing, or meditate.  All of these are little steps towards clarity, towards bliss.

Are you ready to take the next little step towards clarity?  Are you yearning to deepen your spiritual practice?  If you're like me and interested in both yoga AND tarot, I've got just the thing for you:  my upcoming Tarot Intensive.  The first intensive in the series will focus on the Major Arcana and the 8-Limbed Path of Yoga. Click here to check it out.

The light within me bows to and honors the light within you.  Namaste & xo.

 

 

 

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