In philosophical and pragmatic terms, yoga is a discipline that offers us a way of life that includes an ethical code, practices of breath, body and mind control, and proper concentration in order to experience truth. The eight limbs of yoga are:
Yamas and Niyamas
- Ahimsa: Buddha non-violence. It is the ability to recognize boundaries of our own bodies and others’ boundaries. It is also sensitivity and the capacity of being compassionate.
- Satya: Is being the truth, as well as speaking the truth. It is the ability to be truthful to yourself and recognizing where you are so that you can work from that space of awareness.
- Asteya: This yama speaks to us about not taking more than what you need, and abstaining from taking what is not yours. This inspires us to be patient, non-grasping and stepping beyond the concept of mine. It limits our desire for things we do not need or perhaps things that may not benefit us. Within this practice we also aim to be punctual, not stealing others’ time and resources by our carelessness.
- Brahmacharya: Spirit-Master-Focus. Brahmacharya advises us to be mindful of our sexual energy and our proper use of it. Sexual energy is vitality, it is sacred and it merits that we honor ourselves by honoring our sexuality responsibly and sustainably for ourselves and our partners.
- Aparigraha: Letting go and non-attachment. We have a tendency to grasp on to feelings, ideas, memories, beliefs, notions which craft our sense of self. When that is gone we have nothing left to identify ourselves with. When we identify with something, it is our ego that identifies and grows, as such we limit ourselves to the object of identification. Aparigraha is the path of generosity so that we may lose our sense of possession of our family, friends, partners, etc. so that we grow generous with our love. Ask yourself what things do not serve you and release yourself. If you have nothing, nothing can have you.
- Sauca: Sauca is the practice of cleanliness and purification. Yogis have several physical practices for purification such as cold showers, oil pulling, tongue scraping, neti pot cleanses, etc. However, sauca speaks to us about cleansing our karmic past, healing relations with our families, friends, lovers, etc. and purifying those karmas. We can purify our karma by changing old habitual patterns that harm us, by cleansing our hearts of unwanted desires. Mantra reciting is a great way to purify ourselves and clean our hearts. Our hearts are like mirrors, if it is clean it can transmit pure beauty, attachment and desires are the dust that settles on this pure mirror.
- Santosa: Is the ability to be content, to keep a positive mind and to prevent discouragment from arising. Find balance, be patient, take things deeply with a light spirit, try your best, be happy with what you have. We are all Divine Beings, our essence is of beauty and joy. We are eternal. Unhappiness opens the door for growth and everything that is negative can be transmuted to be positive. We welcome discomfort and insatisfaction because it pushes us to evolve and grow. Santosa offers us self-fulfilment when we serve others.
- Tapas: Effort, fire, austerity, discipline, strenght to keep on the path, ideals, goals of what we want to achieve. Sometimes tapas pushes us out of our comfort zone. It is proper effort on our part and the ability to recognize proper effort from others as well. Tapas gives us the incentive to hold each asana a little longer. What we avoid is what we need most to work on, tapas faces us with this challenge. We must make the effort to overcome that which we don’t like or that which seems difficult to us. Tapas is the fire that burns karma to ashes.
- Svadhyaya: Is introspection and the ability to study oneself. Mindfulness and awareness of every detail. We aim to find the balance between self effort and freedom.
- Ishvara Pranidhana: Is the most important of the Niyamas as it is the devotion toward a higher energy or consciousness. It is the ability to align and attune with Divinity in all of creation to find the support to continue on the path of spiritual evolution. We align and trust the power of grace and allow ourselves to witness the miracles that occur every moment. We surrender as we cannot control everything that happens, there is always a reason why things happen the way they do and we must trust that everything happens for our own good and that the universe supports us. Surrender.
Asana is the physical aspect of the yogic path. Though there are as many styles of asana practice as there are leaves on a tree, we believe the style that works best for you is the style that you practice and develop a devotion that keeps you inspired enough to practice it on a regular basis.
Yoga opens us up mentally and emotionally as well to receive that which is occurring in every instant. When we practice yoga, especially as the practice deepens, we are able to more deeply inhabit our inner selves and recognize patterns of behavior, patterns of holding our bodies, mental and emotional blocks and other aspects of our selves. With constant practice we are able to overcome these states, through understanding them and transcending them. Yoga unveils our light and our shadow and though it can be an empowering practice, it can be also frustrating. It is up to you to decide whether the blocks you encounter in your practice are real hindrances or are simply fuel to transform that shadow into positive aspects of your self.
Very specific breathing techniques and patterns of breath. By gaining total and complete command of our breath, we command our entire lives, destiny and karma. If we cannot command over breath we have no command at all of ourselves.
Self reflection and inward work. Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses from the outer world into the inner world to recognize the divinity that lies within unadultered by the external senses. The senses are of course, a valuable aide to guide us through the physical world, but when the attention is turned inward as an offering of devotion, we come to realize and recognize the subtletity beyond sensorial input, and this, is yoga, connection.
Proper concentration is required for any meditative practice. The ability to tame the impulses of the being to become distracted is a skill that is developed over time and through the sharpening of this tool we are able to be absorbed in a profound state of Dhyana, another one of the 8 limbs of yoga.
Profound meditation state is what occurs when we are able to focus the mind and be immersed in the experience of being, to find the architecture of the mind unveiled and at the same time to fluidly experience the state of profound immersion in the self to reach the state of Oneness with all, samadhi
Oneness with all is an experience that occurs in fleeting moments during the practices that encompass the science of yoga. Samadhi, however is a mental state akin to Nirvana, whereupon the practitioner realizes the blissful state of being connected to all that is creation with no distinction, segregation, or separation. This fleeting moment can be an eternity with the proper understanding of detachment from its experience. It is as if by desiring this state, one repels it, since attachment is the very way we create separation in our realities. The ultimate teaching within samadhi is the absolute relation that all holds with all.