The 8 Limbs of Raja Yoga: A Breakdown
Thousands of years ago, a sage named Patanjali wrote one of the most cherished texts in eastern philosophy: the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga.
These 8 steps act as guidelines for living a purposeful and meaningful life.
They outline a balanced approach to spirituality, and have helped countless yogis find deeper meaning in their spirituality.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what they teach.
Yamas are the basic rules of how to live life.
You could think of these as the rules of “Do unto others as you would do unto yourself”.
The five yamas are:
Niyamas are all about finding discipline becoming aware of spiritual observances.
Establishing a meditation routine and developing your own spiritual habits are great examples of Niyama in action.
The Niyamas are:
Tapas: heat; spiritual austerities
Svadhyaya: study of the sacred scriptures and of one’s self
Isvara pranidhana: surrender to God
Because the body is considered to be the temple of spirit, caring for it is considered to be a spiritual duty.
By practicing asanas (postures), concentration and discipline are both magnified, making it easier to sit in meditation.
In fact, many of the asanas were developed specifically to open certain chakras.
Most of the time, when you hear pranayama referenced, it’s talked of as “breath control”.
But pranayama is much more than that:
It’s breath control combined with energy control.
By controlling the breath, the yogi can access the energy in the spine and expand it into a higher level of consciousness- creating deeper levels of spiritual awareness.
Overtime, consistent practice leads to the ultimate state, samadhi.
Pratyahara is the stage that comes after deeply practicing pranayama.
It’s the natural progression of meditation.
The senses essentially become “cut-off”, like a turtle withdrawing its limbs; this loosens the grip on attention.
From there, the yogi becomes hyper-aware of his or her internal world.
When the attention becomes withdrawn, the yogi is more easily able to focus on the real obstacle of meditation: the mind.
Here, the mind can more easily focus on any single point: whether it be a mantra, visualization, or other technique.
After the mind becomes truly focused, the practitioner enters into an uninterrupted flow of concentration.
This stage requires a tremendous amount of focus, but it’s the more mature version of dharana.
There are very few thoughts if at all during this phase.
Once the yogi gets past the mind, the stage of pure awareness sets in, known as samadhi.
This is the transcendence of the self.
In this state, peace and bliss flow freely, and the yogi feels a sense of fulfillment that’s deeper than words can explain.
This state eventually leads to enlightenment.
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