Eight Limbs of Yoga
BLOG / September 30, 2023
In the eight limbs of yoga, our physical asana practice is but one component. Getting our bodies healthy, mobile and strong is an admirable pursuit, but alone it won’t lead us far on our path. There is more work to be done.
The steps that the ancient yogis mapped out for one to attain full absorption with the infinite have a very specific order. The first of which is called the yamas. These are five codes of conduct that we need to observe with the outside world before we even begin to turn inward.
Ahimsa (non-violence) – Although directly translated as “not killing” this yama has a wider, positive meaning; love. Violence comes from fear, and it is only in the absence of fear that we can truly live in love. The yogi believes that they are born to help others and be of service to the world. We strive to improve ourselves and show others the path by being gentle and loving to all.
Satya (truthfulness) – Truth is the foundation of morality. Only when our lives are based on truth can we be fit for union with the infinite. Combined with Ahimsa, Satya creates the fundamental context for reality. When we express our existence as love and truth, real harmony can flow through us. It is important to remember that truth isn’t limited to speech alone. Instead it can also be represented as true authenticity (purusha) and not being deceived by the ever changing world around us (prakriti)
Asteya (non-stealing) – The desire to possess and enjoy what another has, drives a person to make poor choices. It is this desire that begets the urge to steal and covet. Asteya includes not only taking what belongs to someone else, but also misappropriation, mismanagement and misuse. Craving (raga) muddies the stream of tranquility. It is freedom from this craving that allows the yogi to avoid the perils of temptation.
Brahmacharya (abstinence) – Although the original intent was for yogis to live a life of celibacy, a modern practice does not demand such rigidity. Instead, it is imperative for the yogi to direct their vitality toward loving pursuits. We do not debase ourselves by leaking sexual energy in every direction. Instead we live with intention and always direct toward the Divine.
Aparigraha (non-greediness) – The yogi will best merge with the infinite by means of a simple life. Hoarding opposes simplicity. Everything we truly need will come by itself at the proper time. When striving for accumulation in the rat race, there is hardly any possibility of keeping the mind in a state of equilibrium.