Patanjali, author of “The Yoga Sutras” is the oldest written text on yoga. It was written over 3000 years ago but believed that before it was written was passed down verbally. The belief is that many authors may have contributed to the text. The strings are not very long however many different modern day interpretations exist elaborating on the text meaning. (see books for suggested authors)
There is a chapter within the Yoga Sutras known as the eight (8) limbs. The eight parts commonly refer to “asashtanga” meaning “arms” or “limbs” in Sanskrit is in reference to a section in the Sutra’s; the 8 limbs to yoga.
= yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayama, pratyahara,dharana, dhyana and samadhi.
Niyamas – Observances or Rules of Life
These concern ethics, positive traits to build upon, responsibility, cultivation of inner discipline, behavior towards self and devotional aspects.
shauca – purity
santosh – contentment
tapas – endurance
swadhyaya – self study
ishvara pranidhana – dedications and supernal contemplations.
Yamas – Rules for Living
These are the development and implementation of morals, principles, self-control, considerate social behavior and obligations. Often referred to as the “restraints.”
ahimsa – non-violence
satya – truth and honesty
asteya – non stealing
bramacharya -non-lust/non sexual misconduct
aparigaha – non-hoarding/non-possessiveness.
Pranayama – Breath Control
Cultivation of respiration is the way to infuse the vital force and energy into body. We practice this by enhancing the processes of purification by the “restraint” (yama) of the life energy (Prana).
Asanas – Postures
Interesting enough this word is where many in the West associate the term Yoga and yet Patanjali didn’t write much in the texts at all. The word “asana” means “seat of the soul” and he writes to take any movement. Your movement should be steady – “without strain”.
Dharana – Concentration
Naturally, the mind wanders however we draw the mind in to concentrate to tame the mind. Over time the “monkey mind” will slow down and by tapping into other parts of your brain the practitioner over time will become much more intuitive with decisions as well.
Pratyahara – Internalized Consciousness
Technique of drawing the senses inward to pay attention to vibrations or sensations. Creating an awareness either while moving (asana) or being still. Listening to the body from the “inside out”
Samadhi – Bliss
This is the higher state that contains the larger view of universal consciousness, where dualities melt away, and the fusion of oneness exists.
Dhyana – Meditation
There are styles and forms of meditation however it is all about training the mind. The mind is just like a muscle and many simply give up as they can’t control their thoughts or they aren’t sure it is being done correctly. Even while moving you are in an active mediation. Focus on one train of thought in the asana.
Meditation has wonderful health benefits that is still being discovered here in the West. It slows the heart rate however more importantly over time and with practice, it will create a state of being that allows the inner “guru” in you to tap into your inherit knowledge.
You already have all the answers within. Just listen.
All of the 8 limbs don’t have to be practiced in an order – many are mixed together. Most important point is that yoga isn’t something contained to a mat. Just that on the mat we create an awareness to our body, mind and use this awareness out in the world 24/7.
Also there are many other strings and studies of this text to know and study.