8 Limbs of Yoga

In our culture, we mainly view yoga as a means to exercise. Most of us don’t even realize that yoga, in all of its formats, which I will describe below, is really a form of spirituality. A part of the Hindu religion. This is why it is such an oxymoron to have “Christian Yoga” workouts. As quoted from Sulekha, ” Yoga is not a Judeo/Christian word!  It is not a part of the Roman Catholic teachings and certainly not a part of protestant teachings.  It is not found within the King James Version of the Bible.  It is a Hindu word, or more correctly a Sanskrit word from the Vedic civilization.” This brings me to my post: what is yoga? And why is it important to understand what it is in entirety? Do we have any right, as non-practicing non-Hindu peoples to worm our way into a significant part of their belief system?

Is Westernizing yoga wrong? (photo by lululemon athletica)

Is Westernizing yoga wrong? (photo by lululemon athletica)

Yama:

Your attitude toward others and the world around you (internal disposition to external factors.) There are five yamas, as listed below:

  • Ahimsa, or non-violence
  • Satya, or truthfulness
  • Asteya, or non-stealing
  • Bramacharya, or non-lust
  • Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness

Niyama:

How you treat yourself, or your attitude towards yourself. There are five niyamas, as listed below:

  • Sauca, or cleanliness
  • Santosha, or contentment
  • Tapas, or austerity
  • Svadhyaya, or study of sacred text and of one’s self
  • Isvarapranidhama, or living with an awareness of the Divine

Asana:

Physical poses. This is where yoga as Western culture knows it comes into play. From downward dog to cobra, to half-moon pose, we take what is used as a means to reach optimal levels of spirituality and twist it to “let’s tone our bodies and make ourselves look better!”

Pranayama:

Control of breath, or breathing exercises.

Prathayara:

Withdrawal of the senses, occuring during meditation.

Dharana:

Concentration without distraction.

Dhyana:

Meditation to achieve mental clarity and health.

Samadhi:

Enlightenment or nirvana.

So frankly, Yoga is a lifestyle. Part of a Hindu lifestyle. It is not simply an exercise as we have made it out to be in Western culture – and no matter how many “namastes” we pop out of our mouths as we greet one another, we are truly disrespsecting the Hindu religion and culture and those who are fully committed to the practices.

This brings me back to when I stated in this post something along the lines of “…When you believe in something, you must believe in it wholeheartedly as to not cheapen that belief.” After all, if you are believing in several aspects of several different things, you are not taking any of them seriously and in fact, disrespecting all. It is not a particularly healthy place to be.

All of these limbs of Yoga work together to create a pathway to nirvana – the end result.

It is important to understand what it is, because then we are ignorant. In Christianity, we warn those who don’t accept Jesus Christ to not take communion – as it cheapens it and is meant only for those who practice Christianity. It is the same concept, just a different religion.

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