The Eight Limbs Of Yoga For A Modern Age – A Recipe For Wellbeing During Trying Times
Exactly when the first seed of yoga was planted, we can never surely know. Like many practices and traditions handed down from antiquity, it has been translated and reinvented over the course of time into a hot pot of differing interpretations. Each generation has tweaked and twerked yoga to align its teachings with current priorities. Traditional versions of yoga have their place. But, if we are to move and evolve with the times, and enjoy the fruits of a regular yoga practice in our modern-age, we need to mine ancient wisdom for the gems that shine most clearly to us today.
The system of yoga taught by Patañjali more than 1,600 years ago is a way to concentrate the mind via an eight-part practice, known as Aṣṭāṅga yoga (or the ‘eight-limbed’ yoga). This inward path was originally used to renounce the world. It was reinterpreted by Swami Vivekananda in the 19th century and labelled Rāja yoga. Vivekananda’s interpretation presented yoga as less austere and more accessible to Westerners.
Today, in drawing upon the ancient wisdom and science of the eight-limbed path of Aṣṭāṅga, and incorporating its practices into our modern-day lives – not to renounce the world, but rather to embrace it – we too can enjoy the equanimity and bliss that the sages of India did thousands of years ago. The equanimity, peace, and joy, that is yoga.
The eight limbs as we know them today are:
YAMAS – Universal social ethics. Moral restraints.
Ahimsa (nonviolence, kindness), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (moderation), Aparigraha (non-possessiveness, non-attachment, self-sustenance)
NIYAMAS – Personal ethics. Self-observances.
Saucha (purity, cleanliness), Santosha (contentment, gratitude), Tapas (austerity, self-discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study, study of texts), Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion to a higher power, surrender)
ASANA – Postures.
PRANAYAMA – Breath control or extension.
PRATYAHARA – Withdrawal of the senses. Inward Focus.
DHARANA – Concentration. One-pointed focus.
DHYANA – Meditation. Choice-less awareness.
SAMADHI – Complete absorption. Union. Equanimity. Oneness.
Particularly relevant in our fast-paced, digital age are the first two of the eight limbs – the virtues of Yama and Niyama. These ten foundational precepts, if followed with faith and devotion are a recipe for mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. The best thing of all? This yogic prescription is readily available, practical, and without prejudice. It embraces all yoga styles, religions, cultures, classes, genders, body types, and fitness levels. The practice itself extends beyond the mat, and can be integrated into everything we do.
In the Rock Your Chakras, Roll Your Yamas class series, we dive deep into the principles of Yama and Niyama, and explore how these age-old virtues apply to us today, along with how they express in the body. The further we explore, the more our on-the-mat practice takes on a new dimension of possibilities. The yoga postures begin to make more sense. Our life off-the-mat begins to make more sense.
But don’t take my word for it… as Swami Vivekananda – one of the great yogis of the 19th century – said, “It is wrong to believe blindly. You must exercise your own reason and judgment; you must practice, and see whether these things happen or not. Just as you would take up any other science.”
Join me on Tuesdays 1pm at Myall Wellbeing, Perth CBD, as we adventure through the chakras, and the correlating virtues and practices of yoga <3 https://www.yogatrail.com/teacher/tanaya-tien-2452860/schedule