The Elegance of Systems
Systems create structure, guidance, and measurable points of reference for personal development and reflection. The basics of all Yoga systems offer practices which touch all facets of a life well lived. Yoga then, isn’t just about the asanas; in fact, the physical practice makes up only a small sliver of the practical efforts Yoga offers.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga as illuminated in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali (Put-an-jali) gives an excellent point of reference for the aim of liberation. Yoga is a wide path, with many valid, powerful directions to take, and studying this particular one can give any Yoga student a better understanding of how to work with Yoga in a complete way.
Different styles of Yoga offer different systems, but certain elements of effort show up across a spectrum practices. Here we will examine the specific tools delivered to us through the wisdom shared with us by Patanjali.
The Yoga Sutras
The word sutra means thread, like stitches, sutures. Then the Yoga Sutras are the threads of relationships, or perhaps a guide to hold relationships, unions, connections. The collection of Sutras, then, in this context, is like a manual for living, for living the Yogic path.
Sutras 2.29 lists the components of the Eight Limbs; they are:
Yama - abstinence/ restriction/ discipline
Niyama - observances/ goals
Asana - posture
Pranayama - breath control
Pratyahara - sense withdrawal
Dharana - concentration
Dhyana - meditation
Samadhi - contemplation/ absorption/ super conscious state
Undertaken with peace and intention, these eight efforts are a set of tools for managing even our most modern lives. Who doesn’t want to live a more peaceful, balanced, healthy life? These ancient tools are supported in their efficacy by study after study. This stuff works, but only if you do.
You’ll notice the ask of Yoga is as great as the reward, but that's to your benefit too! The fruits of living an aligned lifestyle are only realized with aligned efforts. Aligning effort takes a lot of work, knowing not only where to put energy, but how much? For how long?
It takes a lot of attention and patience to lay the groundwork for the kind of results, over time, Yoga provides. Many people are simply unable to even start, because they don’t know where, and the task at hand seems to be monumental. In a culture where people are looking for effortless, fast results, the idea of doing all the work seems daunting, and maybe a little dull too. It's not so sexy and glamorous to get your hands dirty, or maybe it is, I guess its all in how you look at it, and what you allow yourself to extract from it.
In my studies of the Yoga Sutras, I have discovered that my favorite book of reference is Inside The Yoga Sutras by Reverand Jaganath Carrera. This book offers an accessible, modern understanding of the true messages within this ancient set of practices.
Practical Usage for Modern Times
Follow along as I unpack and explore each of the eight limbs and dive deeper into the texts which are most relevant and helpful in the study of Yoga and Yogic arts. We'll investigate and apply these principals and many other practices in a variety of ways. The goal of modern Yoga is to be willing, flexible, and on a personal mission to learn.
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