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Yoga is the art of living, practiced and perfected in India more than 5,000 years ago. In approximately 200 AD, Patanjali recorded the foundation of yoga philosophy in The Yoga Sutra. This ancient text contains an eight-fold path – guidelines on how to lead a meaningful and purposeful life. In Sanskrit, this path is called ashtanga, which literally means eight limbs.

The practice of yoga is dedicated to creating a union of the body, mind, and spirit. It uses the body and breath to foster awareness of self as an individual being, intimately connected to the unified whole of creation. The eight limbs serve as a prescription for self-discipline and ethical and moral conduct, to restore balance and equanimity, so as to live in peace, health, and harmony with the greater whole.

Eight Limbs of Yoga The art of the inner body and being

Patanjali’s eight-fold path contains the ancient wisdom of physical, spiritual, and intellectual practices that bring harmony to the individual and a connection to the divine. The eight limbs of yoga are:

Yama Universal Morality

The first limb of yoga is concerned with personal integrity, ethical standards, and how we conduct ourselves in life. The five Yamas are universal practices closely related to the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you.):

  • Ahimsa: Nonviolence
  • Satya: Truthfulness
  • Asteya: Non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya: Control of the senses
  • Aparigraha: Non-covetousness

Niyama Personal Observances

The second limb is composed of rules prescribed for personal observance. The five Niyamas refer to attitudes we adopt toward ourselves in our code of living:

  • Sauca: Purity
  • Santosa: Contentment
  • Tapas: Disciplined use of energy
  • Svadhyaya: Self-study
  • Isvarapranidhana: Celebration of the spiritual

Asana Physical Postures

The practice of Asana (moving the body into yoga postures) benefits practitioners with improved health, strength, balance, and flexibility, and serves as a tool to calm the mind and contact the divine in our inner essence of being.

Pranayama Breath Control

Breathing techniques are important in yoga and go hand-in-hand with Asana. Pranayama is measuring, controlling, and directing the breath, which leads to mastery of the connection between the breath and the mind and emotions.

Pratyahara Control of the Senses

"Pratyahara" means to draw back or retreat. It is a conscious effort to draw awareness inward, away from external stimuli, to make concentration possible.

Dharana Concentration

"Dharana" means immovable concentration. The idea is to still the mind and hold the focus of attention in a single direction.

Dhyana Meditation or Contemplation

This is a state of keen awareness without focus, when the mind has been quieted and produces few or no thoughts.

Samadhi Union with the Divine

Patanjali describes the eighth limb as a state of ecstasy in which the practitioner merges with the point of focus and transcends self altogether. The ultimate stage of yoga is enlightenment.

Red Diamond Yoga serves Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, and Culver City with a quality and culture that reflects the purity and deep, abiding purpose of the practice.

We believe that the simple act of practicing Asana (the physical postures of yoga) brings the practitioner to the awareness of self described in the eight limbs. Our dedication to the authenticity of your yoga experience is key to your practice. This is why we take the time to educate our students on the philosophical background of yoga while enhancing the mind with the physical poses.

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