Living the yogic lifestyle is very simple. The eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga (ashto – eight & anga – limbs) serve as a guide to a healthy stress-free life. Ashtanga, sometimes called Raja yoga, is called the ”King” of all yoga disciplines. Originating out of the martial arts training, it is practiced by kings and warriors and used to mentally and physically prepare young boys to become warriors. Also, holy men and monks use the Ashtanga system to train the body and discipline the mind for the rigors of long periods of sitting and inactivity during meditation. In India today, it is taught to school children to be used throughout their life and is still used by the ever-present holy men and monks, sometimes called yogis.
The eight limbs as compiled by the ancient sage Patanjali are:
Yamas (ethical observances): Practicing non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non possessiveness/greed, and moderation of all actions.
Niyamas (self observances)- Practicing purity (in thought, word and action), contentment, austerity, self-study (self- realization), and dedication to the Divine Being.
Asanas (physical postures)- Maintaining a physically fit body to prepare for long periods of meditation and contemplation.
Pranayama– (breathing exercises): The development and moving of energy through the body using breath control.
Pratyahara– (withdrawal of the senses): Technique of reducing sensory stimulation to allow deep relaxation of body and mind.
Dharana- (concentration): Practice of increasing focus or remaining in the present moment without interruption of attention.
Dhyana– (meditation): Developing the ability of holding a focus or concentration for longer periods of time without interruption of attention.
Samadhi– ( cognitive absorption): Holding meditation for longer periods until a point where purity and independence of mind and body is achieved.
These eight limbs are to slowly be incorporated in a daily practice until they transform into a practice of a clean, stress-free lifestyle. In the beginning the first five limbs are worked on simultaneously. Over a period of time the last three limbs easily appear and develop due to purity of mind and a strong flexible body. Yoga is not a religion but a philosophy. However, you may
incorporate your own spiritual predisposition into your practice of the eight limbs.