The eight “limbs” | Using Yoga to Find Balance By Sam Bederman
“Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day to day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.” – BKS Iyengar
“A balanced diet” and “work-life balance” are a couple common phrases from our western culture that speak volumes to people everyday. Do you “live-to-work” or “work-to-live?” If balance is the key to success in a relationship with your partner, why wouldn’t it be the same in a relationship with yourself?
I found yoga as a young person searching for more. For more of what, I didn’t know at 22. But at 44, I am certain I was looking for more balance. I was a new executive working long hours, with high volumes of projects and tight deadlines. I was physiologically being motivated by the adrenaline increase. This overproduction of adrenaline was posturing as Popeye’s spinach! Some of our natural chemical reactions, when we eat super-foods like kale or spinach, or when we practice yoga, have the ability to release hormones that make us feel happier, stronger, or more calm and at ease. However, adrenaline has an overall effect of preparing the body for the “fight-or-flight” response in times of stress.
As my journey evolves, yoga continues to provide a transformative path for my body, mind, and soul. And this transformation continues to get better, stronger, wiser, and more stable. Samatva is a Sanskrit term that refers to the mental condition of harmony or balance. I have come to appreciate that although asana seems to be the primary “limb” and most widely practiced in the Western yoga culture, there are seven other yoga limbs or paths that are undervalued and not resourced regularly for mind-body wellness.
The eight limbs of yoga, as recognized by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, that birthed and provide philosophical foundation in both the Ashtanga and other Iyengar systems are:
- Yamas – Ethics and conduct based on five moral restrains.
- Niyamas – The five observances or spiritual awareness and connection to a “greater one.”
- Asana – Postures, sequences, and alignment-focused shapes we make with the body to build strength, stability, and balance .
- Pranyama – Mindful breathing patterns and techniques meant to cleanse the mind, body and soul.
- Pratyahara – Cultivates focus to turn inward by relinquishing and withdrawing from all of senses.
- Dharana – Immovable concentration and inner awareness with complete stillness of the mind.
- Dhyana – Where meditation and contemplation become forefront.
- Samadhi – the final stage in the eight-fold path, where the mind drops back into the unconsciousness union with pure identity.
Yoga ultimately is a practice of unity. When you have oneness, you have samatva. A path of evolution requires the discipline of yamas, nyamas, and asanas. I encourage you to go inward and be authentic, choose an additional yogic pathway and invite, explore and resource this limb as part of your current practice. This evolution into a deeper and perhaps more complete yoga experience will prove to shape and create your personal freedom, joy, creativity and balance.
Sam Bederman: Certified Yoga Instructor, (CYA-RYT) and Iyengar trained, uses Yoga to assist with healing injuries, aiding in recovery from surgeries, managing chronic and degenerative issues, and as a preventative measure to increase stability and mobility for overall well-being. Sam is a mother of 2 kids, two dogs and the founder of Yogabodii. Visit: yogabodii.com