Tara Stiles on the Eight Limbs of Yoga

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Patanjali wrote about the system known as Ashtanga Yoga, or the eight limbs of yoga. Here are the ethical guidelines he developed to be followed by any practitioner of yoga, including you, if you’re so inclined:

1. Yama: Restraint, which lets us refrain from violence, lying, and stealing.

2. Niyama: Observances. Following a set of outlined rules that lead to contentment, purity, and tolerance.

3. Asana: The physical exercises (yoga poses).

4. Pranayama: The breathing techniques.

5. Pratyahara: The preparation for meditation, a withdrawal of the mind from the senses.

6. Dharana: A state of concentration and being able to hold the mind on one object for a specific time.

7. Dhyana: The act of meditation, the ability to focus on nothing, or no objects, indefinitely.

8. Samadhi: Absorption. Being present, and the realization of the essential nature of the self.

I believe that when the number of people practicing yoga reaches a critical mass, many of our collective mental and physical health problems will begin to fade away. But for yoga to really go mainstream people need to understand that its practice is something anyone can do.

You don’t have to follow Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, or move away to an ashram to have yoga benefit your life. You just have to begin to practice it. Simple. Easy. Powerful.

What do you do first? Breathe.

What next? Observe.
Excerpted from Yoga Cures by Tara Stiles. Copyright © 2012 by Tara Stiles. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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