There are a lot of versions and variations of the ancient yoga sutra. But the one that is followed widely is divided into the eightfold path called ‘Ashtang,’ which means ‘eight limbs.’ These eight limbs of yoga are the guiding force of how one should lead a meaningful and purposeful life to the fullest.
For those who practice yoga, the eight limbs of yoga act as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct in their social life that helps them attain self-discipline. Regular practice of yoga in accordance with these eight limbs helps in attaining good health and spiritual beauty.
But, the question here is, what exactly these eight limbs of yoga are? Here is a brief lookout on each one of them.
The first limb of the yoga is that of Yama, which brings humans close to integrity. Yama helps in shifting focus towards personal behavior and social conduct in life. Yama is believed to be a universal practice which is based on the following golden rule.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Niyama, the second limb of yoga is associated with self-discipline. It awakens an individual’s spiritual observance. The most basic examples of niyama include going to your religious place for worship regularly, praying to God before meals, following your meditation practices and the habit of taking contemplative walks.
The postures ofasanas that one perform care called the third limb of yoga. These asanas are intended to take care of the human body for good health and spiritual growth. Also, performing the asanas regularly inculcates discipline and concentration in one’s life, which are also the foundation stones of meditation.
Pranayama is the fourth limb or stage of the yoga and it translates into breath control exercise. It is meant to understand the direct relationship between the breath, mind and the emotions in human beings. Those who perform yoga dedicate a certain amount of time to pranayama specifically for rejuvenating their body. Pranayama can be performed easily in isolation for spiritual enlightenment. Pratyahara Pratyahara, the fifth limb of yoga means withdrawal from the external world. It is meant to detach the humans from the external forces and come closer to the inner energy. Pratyahara is designed to let the individuals detach from the materialistic things and focus more on inner growth.
Once you manage to practice pratyahara you move on to the next limb or step, i.e. Dharana. It deals with mind distractions and focuses on the practice of concentration. It prevents individuals from thinking multiple things, instead it aims to focus on a single object or energy inside the body. The extended periods of dharana lead to meditation.
The seventh stage of ashtanga is that of dhyana, which means uninterrupted concentration. If you are thinking that both dharana and dhyaan are same then there is thin line difference between the both. Dharana practices one point attention, whereas dhyaan is about being aware of the concentration point without focus.
The eighth and the final stage ofashtanga is Samadhi, which means a state of ecstasy. Here the meditator finally meets his/her focus point and they transcend to become one together. The meditator gets the profound knowledge of divine and disconnects with all the living things. With this realization comes the path of peace and bliss. All these stages might sound a little lofty to many, but they are true ways to get out of the cycle of life to attain true joy and fulfilment. At the end of the day, all human beings aspire to have peace and this is how one attains peace.