8 LIMBS ~ ASHTANGA YOGA
There are eight steps to salvation according to the great Indian sage Patanjali. In the ancient text, the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes in detail the keys to our consciousness which unlock our conditioned minds and unite us with our highest power. The ascending ladder of practice is climbed one step at a time and with practice, patience and perseverance we can be liberated from our patterns of physical and mental suffering.
Yama ~ moral restraints
~ahimsa - non-harming
~satya - truthfulness
~asteya - non-stealing
~brahmacharya - continence, control of sexual energy
~aparigraha - non-greediness, not wanting for more
Niyama ~ observances of mind & body
~sauca - cleanliness
~santosa - contentment
~tapas - firey cleansing, purification, dedication
~svadhyaya - self-study
~isvara pranidhana - surrender to a higher power
Pratyahara ~ Controling the Senses
Prolonged practice of pranayama leads us to the next step of pratyahara, controlling the senses. Pranayama calms our mind and allows us to separate from the five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) which constantly stimulate and disturb our consciousness. Pratyahara is the transition stage from the body (gross) to the mind (subtle) and beyond to the soul (atman).
Dharana ~ Contemplation
Contemplation with a single-pointed focus is dharana. In this stage, we control the mind and prevent it from wandering or being distracted by random thoughts.
Dhyana ~ Meditation
Meditation is the result of refined concentration in dharana. We are no longer subject to the senses, thoughts or body consciousness. We become free of our illusory concepts and definitions of reality and are free to dive into the depths of our souls and experience liberation from our suffering.
Samadhi ~ Union
Samadhi is the experience of pure bliss occurring when the individual soul merges with the super soul. Yoga means union and it is because we are one with all prana, we can integrate with the higher power already in us and in all forms of existence. Yoga is the method of clearing away any obstructions or obstacles preventing us from realizing this state of being.
Asanas ~ Postures
Asanas (postures) unlock the physical and emotional tensions in the body. Each posture has a specific purpose for strengthening and making supple the muscles and cleansing the organs and tissues of the body. Performing asanas with deep, mindful breathing purifies the blood and respiratory system and calms the mind. The body and mind are so intimately connected they reflect each other and affect our state of consciousness. By bringing health, flexibility and balance to the body, we create the same condition for the mind. Most manifestations of physical and mental illness are a direct result of negative, fearful thinking and conditioned responses of the mind. As the body is more tangible and the mind subtle, creating health in the body is an ideal place to influence the mind. This doesn't mean that having a healthy body automatically means you have a healthy mind. The intention of making the mind more peaceful and controlled must also be present.
Pranayama ~ Breathwork
Prana (energy) is the fabric of all things in the universe. It is the substance of our bodies and the energy that brings life. Breath is our connection to this life force energy. It creates and moves the prana within us. Pranayama are breath exercises to harness and control the prana. Through breath control we tap a boundless source of energy, calm the mind and move beyond consciousness to the deeper abode of the Divine. Shallow, irregular and fast breathing from daily stress and uncontrolled breath leads to disease and shortens our lives. Pranayama teaches us to be aware of the breath and slow down the pace to increase longevity and inner-peace.