This is a guest post written by Beth over at The Mama Bear Yogini. Thank you, Beth, for collaborating and sharing your first guest post with my community.
When you think of yoga what comes to mind? Probably really flexible people doing all sorts of handstands and other balancing poses. I know that’s what I thought when I first started thinking about yoga. “Well, I’ll get there. That’s what it’s all about right?” That’s what I told myself. “It’s all about learning to do awesome poses that I can upload to Instagram and show off to the world.”
But I was so wrong…
Most people don’t know but yoga actually has 8 limbs, and the poses are only 1 of them!
1. Yamas (restraints) – these are basically the rules for how you should treat others. Your actions always have an effect on others, so by following these rules you are living a good, kind, honest life.
- Ahisma– non-violence– This means physical violence and also emotional. So pretty much always be kind, to everyone. Ever heard the phrase “Kill them with kindness”?
- Satya– truthfulness– don’t lie, it’s not kind (see above.)
- Asteya– non-stealing– appreciate what you have and don’t peek over the fence to see what your neighbor has that you don’t.
- Brahmacarya– moderation– directing your energy to what is important. Like not getting mad over something small or worrying about something out of our control. Yeah I know, easier said than done. I struggle with this one, too.
- Aparigraha– generosity– giving to others what they need and not being greedy or hoarding.
2. Niyamas (practices)– these are the rules for how you treat yourself. Practicing self-care and being the best you, to yourself! This can be hard to remember, but will change your life in so many amazing ways!
- Saucha– purity– keeping your body and mind clean. Cleanliness of the body and mind is so important. Wash away physical and mental impurities. Fuel your body cleanly. All those things that keep our whole body healthy!
- Santosha– contentment– accept things the way they are, not how you think they should be.
- Tapas– austerity– the dedication and commitment to trying to hone in your true self and burn off the reminder, that brings us down.
- Ishvara pranidhana– surrender to the higher power– understanding that we are not the only thing in control of our lives. There is a higher power at work. We are not in this alone, and don’t need to try to do it all alone!
- Svadhyaya– self-study– this is about taking the time to focus and reflect on yourself. Be aware of your thoughts and behaviors, but not to judge, just to learn.
3. Asana (postures)– See only now are we getting to the actual part that people think of when they think yoga. By focusing on our body and mind, we can work into poses that create balance, strength, and flexibility. So while this is exactly what comes to mind, its only 1 part of the bigger picture.
4. Pranayama (breathing)– Pranayama literally means “breath control”. By working on controlling our most basic and important life force, we can then work on controlling other parts of our life. When doing yoga, I always like to remind myself, to inhale the good and exhale bad. Inhale positivity, exhale negativity. While doing asanas, it’s really good to move with your breath. It’s a form of active meditation and really helps you focus on your movements and postures.
5. Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)– we are now moving from the external side of yoga and working our way to inside ourselves. The practice of pratyahara is withdrawing from outside distractions and focusing on what’s going on inside. I love this quote from DoYouYoga–
Anything that takes your focus away from the external impressions and creates peaceful and positive inner impressions is pratyahara.
A great place to start with this in our modern-day and age is social media and electronic detox (obviously not completely because, hey, I still would love you to follow me.) But by limiting how much we watch on TV or sit around on our phones, we can stop being so influenced by the outside and start influencing ourselves.
6. Dharana– (concentration)– this is the practice of giving your mind one focus. During asana, a teacher might say to focus on your breathing, I personally like to focus on a mantra. The actual point of focus itself is not what matters, it’s getting your mind to stop wandering and to focus on one thing and stay connected and present.
7. Dhyana– (meditation)– now we are taking the focus and control we have over our mind and using it to connect with our inner self. So the point of focus goes away, and we focus on nothing but just being one with yourself. There is a reason meditation is so hard. It really does take practice, and working up to it with the practices mentioned above will help.
8. Samadhi– (liberation)– so this is kind of the “ultimate goal”. This is pretty much spiritual enlightenment. You now have control over your actions, your body, and your mind, and your whole self has complete unity. Sounds super hippy-dippy, but it really is the state of just being. You are one with the universe and you are totally present in everything. Only once you have complete control over all of the other limbs can you reach Samadhi, and you won’t be able to plan for it, it just… happens.
Ok, now that you know what exactly yoga is and everything that it’s made up of, it’s important to remember, yoga is a journey. You need to practice and not only focus on the goal. It’s about being present in each and every day and each and every part of the journey. It’s great to have goals, we all need things to strive for since none of us is perfect. Just remember, you are who you are today and it’s ok to be where you are at now. Focus, practice, and stay strong and determined and everything else will fall into place. Always take time to appreciate each moment.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read what I have to say. I really hope I have inspired you to make the most of your journey and given you a path you can follow. These might be the parts that make up yoga and a yogi lifestyle, but they are good rules for anyone to follow to live a happy, healthy life- even if samadhi isn’t your ultimate goal!
Namaste my friends. I hope you’ll tune in for more!
Thank you, Beth for explaining the other aspects of yoga in such a comprehensive way. Be sure to give Beth a warm welcome in the comments! I also encourage you to stop by her blog and check out what she has to offer! Click on the icons below to connect with Beth! ❤