November 22 Eight Limbs of Yoga

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” Nelson Mandela

Some people think yoga is twisting yourself into a pretzel and others think it is devil worship (true story, I have had these conversations). Ummm…..no to all of that. Yoga is a part of the path and the path is a part of every person’s journey. The Eight Limbs of Yoga (in my own words) are this:

  1. Outer
  2. Inner
  3. Movement
  4. Breath
  5. Monkey Mind
  6. Concentration
  7. Meditation
  8. Enlightenment

Let me explain. The reason why I want to explain is because I am happy and I feel good. This wasn’t always the case. When people who were around during the dark days ask what is different now, I usually respond “yoga and no carbs / no sugar”. I have only recently realized that this is a winning combo for me and my hope is that in telling about my journey that they might try it in their own way to find their happiness, clarity, light, health. A very common response is that “I can’t practice yoga because I am a Christian”. This inspired me to explain how yoga will not interfere with your Christian beliefs/practices/ideals/truths. Following are the Sanskrit words and loose translations, according to me and how my brain works. You may have a different definition and that’s cool.

  1. Outer – The Yamas are outward ideals to incorporate into your daily life
    1. Ahimsa – nonviolence similar to Christianity “Thou shalt not kill” but nonviolence is much broader than killing. Violence can be words and thoughts.
    2. Satya – truthfulness similar to Christianity “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”. Don’t gossip or lie.
    3. Asteya – nonstealing similar to Christianity “Thou shalt not steal”.
    4. Brahmacharya – moderation similar to chastity in Christianity
    5. Aparigraha – nonpossessivenes, non greed similar to Christianity “Thou shalt not covet….”
  2. Inner – The Niyamas are inward personal practices that you incorporate into your daily life
    1. Saucha – purity
    2. Santosha – contentment
    3. Tapas – self discipline
    4. Svadhyaya – self study
    5. Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to a higher power
  3. Asana – Movement (yoga pose) is the yoga path that most people are familiar with. There are many different types of movements, a lot of people don’t realize this. They think you have to be flexible, strong and balanced the day that you start a yoga asana practice. Nope. Your GOAL is to be flexible, strong and balanced, so work TOWARD that but come as you are. Like Jesus and Kurt Cobain so famously have stated. Kurt Cobain, whose band is named Nirvana, I might add…hello, people.
  4. Pranayama – Breathing is the doorway. Your breath is your life force. Think of it like “The Force” in Star Wars. May the Force be with you.
  5. Pratyahara – external noises and internal noise (the Monkey Mind). The ability to turn this switch off is the greatest gift that you will ever give yourself. But it ain’t easy. Flipping this switch to the “Off” position is the key to serenity and peace of mind. And getting a good night’s sleep, every night ya’ll.
  6. Dharana – Concentration is love in action. I imagine that my heart is a flower that is blooming and simultaneously opening from my breastplate shining a soft, warm, glowing light that eventually touches everything and everyone in it’s path.
  7. Dhyana – Meditation similar to Christianity prayer. Meditation can focus on a thing (like a mantra or prayer) or focus on nothingness. Totally up to you.
  8. Samadhi – Enlightenment / Bliss this is for EVERYONE, not just the truly holy who go into caves and pray and fast all day and never shave. You can experience this on a daily basis when you laugh, look at your loved ones, relax.

You can tackle each limb one day at a time, it’s not like you have to have it all figured out right from the beginning. Life is a work in progress.

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