The 8 Stages of Yoga
Yoga has become widely practiced worldwide. In the United States with growth to more than 20 million people since 2002. According to the U.S. News & World Report in 2015, yoga practice showed more growth than any other natural health therapy
The mention of the word "YOGA" conjures up images of super fit people posing in sometimes impossible looking "Asanas". Much of these poses do not exist in the real yoga. You do not have to be able to achieve these fancy poses to be considered a yogi. The core principle of yoga is to align your life to be in harmony with Mother Nature and be a good human being.
The birth of yoga originally comes from the Vedas (ancient Hindu scriptures), which dates back between 4,000 to 5,000 years. Vedic knowledge was passed down from teacher to student through perfect memorization in the way of verses and poems. But it wasn’t until the second century B.C. that a sage named Patanjali outlined what is known today as the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
An Overview of the Eight Limbs (Ashtanga) of Yoga
Here’s a brief overview of each of the eight limbs:
- The Yamas are rules of moral code and include ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), bramacharya (sexual restraint), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
- The Niyamas are rules of personal behavior including saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (discipline or austerity), svadhyaya (spiritual studies), and Ishvara Pranidhana (constant devotion to God).
- Asana refers to yoga postures but in Patanjali’s initial practice, it referred to mastering the body to sit still for meditation. The practice of yoga asanas came about eight centuries later, which helped disciples ready their bodies for meditation.
- Pranayama are yoga breathing techniques designed to control prana or vital life force.
- Pratyahara means withdrawal of the senses.
- Dharana refers to concentration.
- Dhyana is the practice of meditation.
- Samadhi is merging with the divine.
As you can see, Asanas is just one small part of the way of life that has been prescribed. We do not see the 7 other key pillars being either practiced or taught. Try to incorporate these steps into your life and you will feel a sense of contentment.
We are unable to elaborate on each of the 8 Ashtangas here but there is enough information available on the web.
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