The path of internal purification to enlightenment and connection with the Universal Self consists of the following eight spiritual practices called “The Eight Limbs of Yoga”. These eight steps act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life.
Yama (universal moral codes)
First limb of yoga
Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This limb has to do with moral principles and sense of integrity. This limb focuses on our actions and demeanors.
- Ahimsa: nonviolence
- Satya: truthfulness
- Asteya: nonstealing
- Brahmacharya: continence
- Aparigraha: non-covetousness
Niyama (self-purification and study)
Second limb of yoga
This limb has to do with self-discipline and spiritual practices. Practicing yoga, meditation, prayer, or any other way of worship is an example of a Niyama.
- Saucha: cleanliness / purification
- Samtosa: contentment
- Tapas: heat; spiritual austerities
- Svadhyaya: self study and of the sacred scriptures
- Isvara pranidhana: surrender and devotion to God
Third limb of yoga
This limb consists of the physical yoga postures practiced in the yoga sequence. The body is our temple that holds our spirit. It is crucial that you take care of your physical body because it is an important stage of your spiritual growth. Through the practice of the asanas, we develop great discipline which is needed for meditation. You must practice asanas daily to make the body strong and healthy. When the body and senses are stabilized, the mind can be calm and controlled.
Pranayama (breath control)
Fourth limb of yoga
This limb is designed to help you master the respiratory process, connecting the breath, mind, and body. Pranayama means “life force extension”. The yogis believe that pranayama not only rejuvenates the body, but actually lengthens your life span. The key to life is to have control over your breath. If you can control your breath you can control the mind. If you can control the mind, you can control the body.
Pratyahara (sense control)
Fifth limb of yoga
This limb means to withdraw from the senses. This is where we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and cultivate wariness within. It’s about releasing outside stimuli and detachment from our senses. As we direct our attention inward, we find that everything we are searching for is within ourselves. This beautiful journey of withdrawing allows us to objectively observe our attachments, habits, and cravings. By going through this process You discover that some of the things you feel attached to are detrimental to your health, which interfere with spiritual growth and awakening.
Sixth limb of yoga
This limb has to do with concentration. When you relieve yourself from the outside world and distractions, you then have the opportunity to deal with the distractions of the mind. Quieting of the mind can happen by slowing down the thinking process and concentrating on a single mental object. These extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation and awakening.
You can focus on how the heart is feeling or find a specific energetic center in the body. Maybe you focus on an image of a deity, or the silent repetition of a mantra.
Seventh limb of yoga
This limb is simply pure meditation. The definition of yoga is to control of the mind. This stage is about having uninterrupted flow of concentration and stillness. This limb takes immense strength and stamina to reach, but never give up on trying to reach this state of being. It is not an impossible task, only a transformational process. Although though we may not accomplish “picture perfect” postures, or the ideal state of consciousness, we still benefit and grow from every stage as we progress.
Samadhi (state of super consciousness)
Eighth limb of yoga
This is a place of pure ecstasy and liberation. During this stage you merges with your point of focus and transcend to your highest Self. An awakening occurs and connection to the Divine is experienced. A powerful feeling of interconnectedness with all living things is felt. Through this journey comes immense peace, bliss and connection with the Universe. This ultimate stage of yoga is enlightenment. Enlightenment can only be experienced and that is at the price of which is the continual devotion of the aspirant.