#0 – The eight limbs of Yoga – Enrich your yoga practice.

Hello Yogis, Namaste. Today we are going to a little about a very
famous concept in yoga philosophy, ‘the eight limbs of yoga.’ The eight limbs of
yoga is part of the ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” Patanjali is an incredibly wise man who lived
thousands of years ago. He wrote the book… called by us “The Sutras of Patanjali”.
It’s a fantastic piece of work and has so much information on: What is the practice
of Yoga? What are the territories in which we need to practice? What are the challenges
that we are likely to encounter? And how can we deal with them in order to make our practice
richer, more profound and more significant to us and to others. It’s a fantastic piece
of work and the eight limbs of yoga is maybe the most famous, the most known part of this
work. The first thing to note is that he calls it the Eight LIMBS of yoga and not the eight
STEPS of yoga. So it is not meant as “this is the Yamas, these are the first ones, and
when I have mastered them I’m going to climb to the next one. Then I’m going to master
these and i’m going to climb and when I achieve the last one, Samadhi or Enlightenment, then
I’m done! I’ve done everything that I need to do and now I’m…..” (I don’t know) “better
than everyone else?” That’s not exactly how he meant, he meant ‘limbs of yoga’,
as in limbs of a tree. Branches of a tree all exist simultaneously, they co-exist and
they are dependant on each other. If you think that the very first limb is ‘Yamas’ – all
the things that we are supposed to restrain from doing. It means how we deal with the
world. We don’t lie and we don’t steal. Those very basic ethical behaviours that we are
supposed to cultivate if we are into this path of yoga, or cultivate pretty much as
every human being, you’re going to find the same ideas in most traditions; spiritual or
philosophical traditions. So that’s the very first limb and the very last limb is Samadhi
– enlightenment. What Patanjali tries to tell us, I think, is that when you reach Samadhi
– let’s say that we are lucky enough to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime, and you experience
that and it’s fantastic – and then at a certain moment it’s going to withdraw a little or
fade a little, and the next day you probably still have to go to work and be kind to others,
and talk to your neighbour, your family or to your friends and still you need not to
steal and not to lie. So the ethical behaviour and enlightenment they have to co-exist. It’s
not like you reach the top of the ladder and you don’t need to worry about it anymore.
You’re still in a body, you still need to do asana, make sure that your energy is circulating
well in your body, that you are healthy. You still need to breathe and have some control
over your breath and meditate. So there is a co-existence of all these limbs at the same
time. I think thats the most important thing to
do. The eight limbs describe our practice in many different aspects, from the most exterior
to the most internal. But they are all simultaneous, they all need to happen. We have to practice
in all these levels at the same time. There is one more concept that is important
to understand when we are talking about the eight limbs, and that’s the concept of Vritti.
Patanjali’s description of yoga is “yoga chitta vritti nirodha” The most common translation
of this is “yoga is learning to restrain the fluctuations (distractions) in the mind” That’s
important because I think the eight limbs of yoga are all the ways in which we learn
to control these fluctuations or ‘Vrittis’ All the stuff that our mind is producing,
all the thoughts, all the desires, all the analysis, all the judgments, all the stuff
that we are constantly producing in our head, good or bad, is called Vritti. And this description
that Patanjali gives us “yoga chitta vritti nirodha” is learning to contain, to restrain,
these constant fluctuations in the consciousness of the mind. The eight limbs of yoga is learning
to restrain these Vrittis in all levels. So when we restrain from ‘non-stealing’ we are
refraining from this Vritti of ‘I don’t have enough’ We are restraining from lying because
you are restraining from the Vritti that the truth is not enough, that you need to cover
that somehow. When we are doing Pranayama we are restraining from the Vritti that we
need to breathe all the time. When we practice asana we are retraining from that Vritti of
being lazy or you just want to “do whatever your body is doing”
So in all the eight limbs of yoga we are learning to have some degree of control over our minds.
…. The word control is a difficult word to use because it’s not an aggressive, violent
control at all. It’s the control of knowing yourself so well, of knowing your own patterns
of behaviour, of knowing your own Vrittis, of knowing the ways that you tend to get distracted
so well. And knowing where you are going so well that you actually learn to put a reign
on that Vritti, on that distraction, not letting it run away with you. So you hold that energy
with you and that energy is going to take you in the right direction. I think that the
eight limbs of yoga are the eight ways in which we learn to control our stubborn nature.
Our horse like nature if you want. Learn to put this reign of consciousness and energy,
and be guided in the direction that we want to go. From the most simple, how we deal with
others in the world to the highest, how we translate our energy into transcendence and
freedom. We are going to explore that in much or detail in our guided online yoga program
“The eight limbs of yoga” I hope you enjoy it. Thank you.

consistently say in my workshops that I know a lot of people who can handstand and they’re
still assholes. To some…

Posted byMacKenzie
on Monday, March 21, 2016

Jerry Heath


  1. Thanks Anat! The Sutras give food for the analytical mind and allow us to redirect of awareness towards ourselves, modern day living can be a big distraction by draining life force that was always meant for our personal journeys. I hadn't thought of the simultaneous concept and really grateful for this insight. Namaste

  2. Perfect explanation! I've watched all of these videos about limbs of yoga and all of you did the perfect job. Brief and concise, enough for everyone!

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