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The Eight Limbed Path
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February 10, 2011 - 5:15 pm
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The heart of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is described as an eight-limbed or eightfold path, which creates the structural framework of Raja Yoga. These limbs are listed below.

Eight Limbs of Patanjali's Raja Yoga (Ashtanga)

1. Yama (Moral Codes)

2. Niyama (Observances)

3. Asana - (Yogic Postures)

4. Pranayama - (Yogic Breathing)

5. Pratyahara - (Withdrawal of the Senses)

6. Dharana - (Concentration on Object)

7. Dhyan - (Meditation)

8. Samadhi - (Complete Concentration or Salvation)

Feel free to discuss the Eight Limbs on this thread.

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August 12, 2015 - 9:13 pm
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What are the Yamas?

Yama is one of the branches that is part of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, a system put together to explain yoga's ethical practice.

The first, yama, is for self-restraint, discipline, and self-control. It deals with the things a person should not do with the outside world; it is paired with niyama, which focuses on what a person should do with their internal world. Yama can be broken down into five characteristics:

1. Ahisma

This means that the person has a compassion for all living things. The practitioner will prevent violence against animals and against other living creatures. It hopes that the user will be considerate towards others and do no harm to any earthly creature, human or animal.

2. Satya

Speak the truth. There is no simpler way to phrase this characteristic. If speaking the truth has a negative consequence, perhaps it is better to say nothing at all.

3. Asteya

Where "steya" means "to steal," it is not hard to make a connection to "asteya." Do not steal. It also means that when someone has put their trust in you through confiding or another action, do not take advantage of them. It is implied under this characteristic to not take anything that has not been given to you freely.

4. Brahmacharya

This is typically meant to control your relationships between others in the hope that the goal is to foster friendships and relationships that lead to a universal truth. It is not for celibacy.

5. Aparigraha

Take only what you need. It shares morals with Asteya, asking that you do not take advantage of a situation or act out of greed.

With these five wise characteristics in mind, one can only agree that the Yama exists to explain the moral virtues in yoga. If attended to correctly, they can purify human nature as well as contribute to both the happiness and health of society. Yama hopes the practitioner of yoga will hold a positive influence over the external world as they continue to practice and find internal balance.

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August 19, 2015 - 9:57 pm
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What Are Niyamas?

In Yoga, the Niyamas are personal contracts, agreements, or commitments one makes with oneself. They are distinct from the Yamas, or contracts with others, in that they are focused solely on the improvement of one's own inner life and spirit. Traditionally there are five Niyamas in the practice of Yoga, each one an agreement you make with yourself in order to better your life and achieve an understanding of your place in the world.

First Niyama - Cleanliness

A polluted stream will yield no life. Our bodies and our spirits must be clean in order for us to be happy and healthy.

The obvious first place to start is cleanliness of the body. Keeping our bodies clean helps us avoid illness such as infection, and leaves us looking and feeling more beautiful and happy. We don't stop with the outside, though. Keeping our insides clean with healthy diet and proper medicine is just as important.

When you grow used to keeping your body clean, keeping the spirit clean is a natural follow up. The very task of daily attending to your body's needs will make you feel better mentally, as will taking the time to meditate and relax the senses.

Second Niyama - Contentment

To be at peace with the world around you is difficult. It often feels there is so much that could change for the better. A better home, a better school, a better family: all of this could make our lives feel better. However, there is a wise difference between contentment and acceptance. Simply accepting life is giving up, but being content is the state of knowing things are as they are, and being happy that you have done what you can to make your world healthier and better.

Third Niyama - Heat

This is the follow on from Contentment. When we are content that we are in the place we must be, we can embrace our inner heat and drive to make things better. We can then strive to change and better ourselves, to learn new things, to become healthier, to plan long-standing dreams and bring them to reality.

Fourth Niyama - Study of Oneself

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. We only better ourselves by understanding ourselves, and we only understand when we study. Take the time to be alone, to think and meditate on how you feel about yourself. Learn what you like, what you hate, your strengths, and your flaws, and you will know more about what to do than from a thousand self-help books.

Fifth Niyama - Surrender to God

Seek a power beyond yourself, and give yourself to that power. Devote yourself to the principles of your ethics, philosophy, or faith, whatsoever it might be. Embrace a set of guiding principles and let them carry you to health and happiness.

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