Yes, yoga does have eight limbs. One limb for each aspect in the yogic system. These eight different appendages are called: yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana & samadhi.
I am going to, briefly, identify each limb one by one so that you can get a better understanding of the full system of yoga. Western teachings/classes normally only focus on 1, 2 or 3 parts of the eight-limb system, namely the postures, breathing and some stillness techniques.
While there is no true order for understanding, the limbs do build upon one another and lead us to the goal of yoga: peace, truth and unutterable joy.
During this past week, I have been considering the concept of moderation. It is so easy to fall into habits and extremes – mostly when it comes to diet, sleep and work. Many of us choose to see things as black or white, yes or no, never or always, right or wrong, too much or not enough…the correlations are virtually endless with this idiom which makes it understandable and relatable in many situations. Deep awareness and dedication are required to keep steering ourselves toward that middle road.
I have taken my yoga practice in moderation this week by applying the principles of yin yoga. When doing my initial research for teaching many years ago, I stumbled across the term “Goldilocks principle” or “position” as defined by Bernie Clark. It means just as the storybook explains, not doing too much, nor doing too little, but doing what is just right. Yin yoga is a very good practice to hone the concept of moderation. It permits you to judge for yourself how deeply you would like to descend into a posture. It is good preparation for knowing the difference between “stressing” the body and “pushing” the body – keep in mind that stressing the connective tissue is the intention behind yin yoga.
In general, yoga has taught me that too much flexibility is just as damaging as too much strengthening – one can lead to instability and the other, rigidity. You need to practice with both principles in your sights in order to be healthy and balanced.
If you have never heard of yin yoga or are unfamiliar with the asanas of yoga in general, then consider the concept of moderation with other activities that you do on a regular basis. An interesting examination would be to measure how much you overload the senses with screen time. This is a very common way that we tend to unconsciously overdose ourselves.
The remedy to balance and get back on the middle road is to generate awareness. I find spending time walking outdoors to be the best treatment for avoiding extreme routines. Communing with nature is equalizing, centering and definitely gives me a wiser perspective. It allows me to think more openly – in technicolor, rather than merely black or white.
Looking into someone’s eyes is as real as it gets. If you’ve ever been in deep love, staring into your partner’s eyes can be one of the most profound and genuine experiences. Likewise, a teacher or guru’s gleaming eye contact has the potential to communicate heartfelt devotion from across a room.
There are many examples of sayings and proverbs that refer to the eyes as the seat of sincerity:
The eyes have it.
The eyes are the windows to the soul.
Seeing eyeto eye.
The eyes don’t lie.
So it seems that our eyes mirror our truth. On the contrary, what happens when we find it hard to be honest? Don’t we tend to avert our gaze? Or, how about those times when we try to pull the wool over someone’s eyes? Or, turn a blind eye?
As you build a personal yoga practice, it’s wise to start with a strong foundation. For this we can turn to the original structure of yoga. Its 8-limb system is arranged to give us a sturdy base upon which to build a dedicated practice.
For those of you who are unfamiliar or need a refresher, the original system of yoga is comprised of 8 different sections or parts: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. They translate from Sanskrit as: restraints, observances, postures, breathing, sense-withdrawal, concentration, meditation and contemplation.
This phrase is a simple way to state that what you put into your body truly creates the individual you will become. What you eat (and drink) not only affects your physique but your outlook, your productivity and how you relate to those around you. It is especially significant when you are trying to establish a steady yoga practice.
Do you want to bring a daily yoga practice into your life? We are building a community of support for this very thing here on the blog each Sunday. Last week we began the process of inviting ourselves to stand open to receive. This week, we are choosing when and where we practice in order to establish a daily ritual.
Lately I have been enjoying the benefits of essential oils in dozens of ways for my health and well-being. It seems only natural that I would start to incorporate the oils into my yoga routine. Today, I will begin a series based on the use of essential oils in yoga practice. I’d like to connect this usage to the more subtle aspects of yoga, specifically the chakras or energy centers.
In the past, I have posted frequently on the concept of the chakric system. Many books and articles explain how each chakra can be balanced or pacified. There are seven chakra centers that follow the body from its base to its crown. If you are interested in learning more about the specifics of the chakras, click here.
We will begin this series with the muladhara or root chakra. It’s the first chakra and is located at the base of the spine. It literally gives us our foundation and grounds us to the earth. Within yoga there are many poses that can help an individual to feel more grounded like tadasana (mountain pose), balasana (child’s pose) and various other seated and standing postures.
Chakras can also be influenced by the use of essential oils. When combined with the yoga postures, the benefit for this subtle energy system can be incredible.
In discussing the particular oils associated with a specific yogic quality, I will refer to the Young Living essential oils that are found in the Premium Starter Kit (see below). For the purposes of grounding, I suggest the blend Valor.
This is one of my favorite oils. Valor is composed of a mixture of oils, namely black spruce, camphor wood, blue tansy, frankincense and geranium. Interestingly, as an oil chosen for rooting, three out of four of its ingredients comes from trees! This may explain why this oil blend supports my “wobbly” personality so effectively.
Valor is also known as the “chiropractor in a bottle” for its effect on the bones and alignment. I’ve heard stories of how worthwhile it is for those who experience chronic back pain or scoliosis.
In addition, Valor can promote positivity and encourage confidence. Qualities that are definitely required if you want to feel more connected or grounded. Therefore, Valor may be helpful in cases of attention deficit disorder or hyperactivity since it is able to generate a considerable sense of peace and gentleness.
I would begin by placing a couple of drops of the oil on a damp, warm washcloth that you can apply to the bottoms of your feet. If you just use 2-3 drops you should not experience any oiliness on the practice mat.
If you are new to essential oils and want to get started incorporating them into your yoga practice, you can register with Young Living here and get your Premium Starter Kit. In the month of October, YL is offering free shipping for these kits. Once you are enrolled, I will be connecting with you directly to provide reference sources and helpful advice.
As a yoga teacher, I know that a personal practice is the ultimate way to magnify all of the benefits that yoga has to offer. I also know that building and sustaining a home practice can be difficult and challenging – just like developing healthy eating habits can be. In my classes and through this blog, I have tried to design small yoga “bites” that are easy for students to digest and incorporate into their daily lives. But a blog is not the greatest reference for organizing content since it is written in a designated time with posts that are disassociated from other posts.
Looking back, I wished that I had a home practice resource for myself – one that would slowly and steadily introduce new concepts to build a personal yoga practice that was fulfilling and consistent. Since I was pretty positive that others would also appreciate a tool to develop their own regular yoga routine, I set a goal to generate a home practice book. The content was pretty much already available since I had been blogging frequently over the past three years. I had already written a great deal about my experiences, teachings and research on topics such as postures, breathing, philosophy and many other yoga related subjects.
My idea was to arrange the book into 52 chapters – one per week for a year. In this way, a new task could be presented and practiced for a full week to build a steady, life-long commitment. The concept of gradually setting up a practice plan with small, enjoyable doses of yoga was the key to my objective.
I also wanted the book to represent the complete system of yoga. So I built the content based on all eight limbs of yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. But I also thought that the book should address some of the more subtle aspects of yoga including the chakra system.
The book needed to include the foundational elements one needs to develop a home practice, the supporting features (the 8 limbs) for practicing yoga and some ways to invigorate or strengthen the practice once it was built. I saw it as being ideal for students who are beginners yet also great incentive for those more advanced practitioners who have always wanted to formulate a true home practice. I also viewed the text as an excellent tool for teachers who were looking to generate new life into their classes.
After many months of planning and developing, I am happy to report that the book is ready! Or, at least the kindle version is. I chose to do it all myself so that I could control the daily tasks of creating, formatting and marketing the product and it took a while to produce. To be honest, the writing aspect was the most fun for me. I had that accomplished nearly a full year before I started exploring and implementing the book’s layout and construction. I hope you will click on the link below to check it out!
Typically the final resting posture is the most relaxing part of a yoga session. In Savasana or corpse pose, yoga students learn to focus on their breath and completely release any effort of body and mind. The reward is a sense of peace and equanimity that can lead to a reduction in stress and an easing of ailments caused by anxiety or tension.