Category Archives: body mind and spirit

8 Limbs of Yoga – The Basics

The Yoga Sutra is a fundamental guide for living with a cultivated body, mind, and spiritual awareness, written in India between 200 B.C and 200 A.D. by physician, Pantajali. This ancient text outlines the eightfold path, called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb)

These eight steps act as guidelines toward living a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.

Source: Ayuh Yoga

Eventually, I will go into more detail about what each of these limbs means. In the meantime here is the lowdown on the 8 limbs at their most basic analysis.

1. Yama – Self-restraints (how we morally interact with each other)

  • Ahimsa: Nonviolence
  • Satya: Truthfulness
  • Asteya: Nontheft
  • Brahmacharya: Nonlust
  • Aparigraha: No greed 

2. Niyama – Self-restraints (how we morally interact with ourselves)
  • Saucha: Cleanliness
  • Santosa: Contentment
  • Tapas: Sustained practice
  • Svadhyaya: Self study
  • Isvara pranidhana: Dedication
3. Asana – Practice of yoga postures and movements, control of body
4. Pranayama – Practice of breathing exercises and techniques, control of breath and life force
5. Pratyahara – Practice of bringing the awareness to reside deep within oneself, control of senses
6. Dharana – Concentration and steadying of the mind free of external (noises) or internal (useless thoughts) distractions.
7. Dhyana – Meditation
8. Samadhi – Bliss, aka: enlightenment.
These eight steps of yoga interact and intertwine with one another, like branches on a tree, and guide along the pathway to attain of physical, ethical, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.

-XOXO-

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Om Alone

Such a punny title. There are many reasons to practice yoga at home, not least of which is the cost of attending classes at a studio. Studios can be over-full, and you’ll struggle to find an inch to lay out your mat. Parking can be a nightmare, especially if your studio is in a busy city center. You may encounter expressionless holier-than-thou clones who can practically balance on their noses, causing you to feel inadequate. Who can achieve nirvana under these circumstances? I’m not anti-studios but I am pro home and at home you can avoid these distractions and you don’t have to share your space. Need further convincing?

At home:

  • You can’t miss a class because you schedule them.
  • You determine the amount of time you spend yoga-ing.
  • You can practice whatever pose you want, however many time you want and for whatever amount of time you want.
  • You develop a deeper awareness of yourself and your mental and physical state without a teacher’s guiding voice.
  • You may KNOW that yoga is not competitive but you will feel more comfortable exploring challenging poses when you are alone.
  • You will become more capable of suiting your practice to meet your needs.
  • Are you sensing a theme? YOU.
So stay home to get a toned and limber body and a stress-free mind. Be sure to get in a least a Sun Salutations in each day and a full 45 minutes routine two to three times each week. Attend classes to have a trained teacher check your alignment two to four times each month. At these supplemental classes, pick up a few new poses to add to your home routine.

Create Your Yoga Space

Pick a quiet space, where noises from the street, your neighbors, or living mates won’t reach you. Bring in decorative elements like a buddha statue and candles and incense. Play meditative music to set the mood. Make sure there is plenty of space around your mat and the area is clutter free.

Make a Date with Your Mat

Classes are generally 90 minutes long but it’s okay to practice in shorter increments. Most yoga teachers agree that practicing for 20 minutes each day is more beneficial that practicing for 90 minutes once or twice each week. Making yoga a habit gives you feedback about your body and mind, which can help improve your practice. So schedule time for yoga each day just like you schedule time for work and spending time with your family.

Have a Plan

Before you lay out the mat it can be helpful to decide which poses you’d like to explore further and which parts of your body you’d like to focus on. Pay close attention when you do go to class and think about how you can use what you learn at home. Notice the sequence your teacher introduces poses in, how long you hold each pose, when inhales and exhales are used. Talk to your teacher for suggestions and advice about how to get the most out of your home practice. Write down notes to help you remember. Find resources on the Yoga Journal website or my personal favorite, Yoga Downloads. Learn the basics for creating a pose sequence and how each pose is set up. Then you’ll have a good foundation when you actually get on your mat.

Create a Sequence

Building a sequence from scratch can be daunting so focus on parts of your body, which would benefit from some attention. Make sure you have a quiet beginning and end. Sun Salutation are another great place to start to get the body warmed up before moving into more focused poses.Yoga Journal has a yoga sequence builder, so use that to help you get some ideas. The more you practice at home the more you will gravitate toward a certain group of poses. Keep this sequence as a backup for days you are too tired or too busy to come up with an original sequence.

Just Do It

Incorporate yoga into your daily life. It’s okay to watch TV or do a crossword while flowing into poses. It’s okay to do a Sun Salutations while you wait for the laundry to finish. Do what you can, when you can, where you can. Become more responsive to your own needs and let yourself fall in love with practicing at home.