“Practice yoga today – for a healthier tomorrow!”
Iyengar yoga is firmly established on the profound and timeless classical treatise, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The great Sage Patanjali is said to have lived around 2500 years ago although some scholars now place him even earlier. We are indebted to him for his codification of yoga into 196 terse sutra-s (verses). This brilliant work is the most complete dissertation on the subject of yoga ever written. Within just 4 short chapters, Sage Patanjali succinctly outlines the entire path of yoga, including the obstacles one may expect to encounter, the powers and gifts (potential traps in themselves) one may gain and the final glory of Self-realization.
According to Patanjali, man’s purpose on earth is to know himself at his deepest level, his very Self or Soul. He enumerated the different practices or disciplines that must be mastered in order to reach this lofty goal and named it Astanga Yoga, which means The Eight-Fold or Eight-Limbed Path, (not to be confused with a contemporary style of yoga known by the same name). These eight limbs (set out below) are the Yogic foundation, which supports a life of integrity; physical/emotional/mental well-being and spiritual growth.
THE EIGHT LIMBS
1. Yamas – Ethical Code of Conduct
Ahimsa – Non-violence in thought, word or deed
Satya – Truthfulness
Asteya – Non-stealing
Brahmacharya – Continence, moderation in all things
Aparigraha – Non-attachment, non-covetousness, non-hoarding
2. Niyamas – Personal Disciplines
Saucha – Purity, cleanliness
Santosa – Contentment
Tapas – Zeal, austerity, self-discipline
Svadhyaya – Self-study and study of sacred texts
Ishvara Pranidhana – The abandonment of the fruits of one’s actions to a Higher Power. Surrender.
3. Asanas – (Postures) begin the physical journey inward. Asanas develop strength, flexibility, concentration and awareness and in the process make the body strong, healthy and fit for meditation.
4. Pranayama – (Breath Control) Pranayama techniques develop mastery of one’s breath, a usually sub-conscious process is brought under conscious control. Pranayama reveals the intimate connections between mind, body, breath and emotions on an even more subtle level, allowing still deeper penetration inwards.
5. Pratyahara – (Withdrawal of the Senses) Pratyahara is the withdrawal from the outer world as experienced through our senses so we may journey farther inwards towards a more dispassionate, objective observance of ourselves.
6. Dharna – (Concentration) Dharna is the practice of making the mind “one-pointed”, so as to steady it and make it still. This state of “one-pointed ness”, when prolonged, leads to meditation.
7. Dhyana – (Meditation) is the state of existing fully in the here and now. Having naturally arrived at this stage thru the practice of “one-pointed ness”, thought ceases and we abide in the present.
8. Samadhi – (Bliss) Union of the Individual Self with the Supreme. Samadhi is a profound state of grace that is gained after prolonged meditation, wherein the practitioner transcends the illusory sense of separateness from the Universe. Samadhi is the culmination of the practice of all the limbs of yoga.