Yoga Teacher Training Week 3 – 8 Limbs of Yoga

In this weeks teacher training we dug deep into the meaning of yoga and how to live a life of yoga on and off the matt.  When we hear the word “Yoga” it is often only associated with the physical practice of postures (asanas), when this is only 1 of the 8 limbs of yoga. These 8 limbs, or stages set a specific path to enlightenment and are made up of ethical codes, physical practices, breathing exercises, and mental practices.  Here is a short description for each of the 8 limbs of classical yoga:

8 limbs of yoga | Vanilla & Velvet

  1. Yama: is made of 5 restraints that control our external relationships– Ahimsa (non-harming), Satya (non-lying), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (self control), and Aparigraha (non-clinging)
  2. Niyama: is made up of 5 observances that control our relationship with ourselves: Shauca (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (zeal for yoga), Svadyaya (self-study), and Isvara pranidhana (surrender)
  3. Asana: postures
  4. Pranayama: breath
  5. Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses
  6. Dharana: intense focus
  7. Dhyana: state of meditation
  8. Samadhi: state of oneness

I don’t think it is a bad thing to begin practicing yoga just for the physical aspects –I personally started my yoga practice for the physical benefits. With the right teacher you will eventually learn the benefits of controlling your breath, and you will see how it compliments the postures. And by just showing up to your matt you will begin to practice the Yamas and Niyamas, without even knowing what they are.  Slowly the others will fall into place when and if the timing is right.

My teacher pointed out a insanely beautiful Iyengar quote in one of this weeks readings – too good not to share:  “Happy is the man who knows how to distinguish the real from the unreal, the eternal from the transient and the good from the pleasant by his discrimination and wisdom. Twice blessed is he who knows true love and can love all God’s creatures. He who works selflessly for the welfare of others with love in his heart is thrice blessed. But the man who combines within his mortal frame knowledge, love and selfless service is holy and becomes a place of pilgrimage, like the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Saraswati and Jamuna. Those who meet him become calm and purified.” — B.K.S. Iyengar, from the Introduction to Light on Yoga.

If you are looking for more information on the 8 limbs of yoga I recommend checking out one of these articles Get to Know the 8 Limbs of Yoga, patanjali and his eightfold path of yoga or reading the book The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

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