These eight limbs were not regarded as a ladder to be climbed one rung at a time, but more the necessary ingredients in the recipe for life. The ancient yogis realized that life can be a difficult and complicated journey but its careful teachings and disciplines guide us along our path. They had a deep understanding of man's nature and of the mind-body connection, and they devised this system to help us obtain happiness and peace of mind, as well as a perfectly toned healthy body.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
There are guidelines necessary for our moral conduct and are the basic principles of right living and restraint; they are no violence, stealing or envy and they command us to be truthful with both others and ourselves. Yoga teaches us that happiness is not in external objects but within ourselves and that the spirit of God is within each one of us.
These are the personal disciplines of daily life. They are cleanliness of mind and body,purity, contentment, study work and devotion to God or the universal spirit. Yoga teaches us that the body is the temple of the spirit and keeping the body in the perfect condition is our duty.
There are the yoga exercises or postures. It is said that there are 840,000 of them! These movements work the entire body, freeing it from tension,toning and firming and strengthening every muscle, internal organ and gland. The balancing postures teach us the power of concentration and focus. Deep relaxation calms the mind and rids the body of chronic tension, and meditation trains the mind to achieve stillness and peace.
This is yoga's breath control. There are many breathing exercises in yoga to stimulate life-giving oxygen to every cell, to energize the body and calm and soothe the mind. The word pranayama means 'controlling the energy flow' . Yoga teaches us how to use our breathing to control our life.
This is the withdrawal of the senses from the external world to the self within to give one peace and calm. This is achieved by practising the asanas and pranayama. Most of our daily activities necessitate our concentration and involvement with external objects and thoughts, but by concentrating on our body as we do the movements, and by concentrating on our breathing, the mind and body become peaceful and calm.
This is the power of constant concentration and focusing of the mind. The mind is like the rays of the sun. When spread over a wide surface, the rays will be warming, but concentrate the rays and they become powerful enough to burn. Yoga balances start us on this path. They discipline the mind to concentrate on just one spot while performing the balances. This skill develops so that eventually one is able to concentrate and focus on a subject of interest even in the midst of turmoil.
This is meditation. Meditation is a powerful tool for freeing our minds from the pressures of life, helping us feel peaceful and calm. When this is accomplished, new ideas appear and the way ahead looks clearer.
This is the result of our total efforts and is the experience of the enlightenment and bliss, living in the present moment, and the realization that we can manifest whatever we wish. The mind becomes full of joy and peace. It is the state of union with the universal spirit or God.