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Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
Nov 25, 2007
The eight limbs of Yoga, as described by Maharishi Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, are a system of steps toward absolute bliss or enlightenment. The first four limbs (steps) are primarily concerned with ethical guidelines, developing awareness of the energy body, and physical mastery.

The last four limbs are concerned with development of consciousness through meditation. The physical body is a capsule for the soul (Jiva). The physical body has basic functional demands, and sensory demands, for pleasure. Transcending awareness beyond the physical senses grants us peace with ourselves.

If the general population of this planet would follow ethical guidelines, and transcend their awareness beyond the physical barrier of the body, we would have world peace. Just to listen, observe, and act, guided by our empathic sense is a good start toward helping others.

When you contemplate the first two limbs of Yoga (Yama and Niyama), you will notice they flow in harmony with every moral code in existence. The principles of Yama and Niyama are universal laws for mankind.

You may have noticed that ten is a common number for moral codes. The Ten Commandments are another example of ethical guidelines. With ten fingers on our two hands, it makes it easy for humans to remember. Hence, we have five Yamas and five Niyamas, for a total of ten.

Yama are restraints, but are sometimes called "Thou Shall Not's" by western Yoga teachers. It is not enough to observe them. It is much more important to live by them in our actions, words, and thoughts. Although we may understand Yama as a restraint, Yoga is full of benefits for those who become faithful practitioners.

Among the many benefits of Yoga practice is empowerment. In Bhakti Yoga, and in other spiritual forms of Yoga, empowerment is a ritual in which a Guru bestows an enlightened presence to bless the mind and soul (Jiva) of a devoted student. Sometimes, a deity is called upon to bless and nurture the devoted student throughout life. As a result of this blessing, the student becomes empowered to help and teach others.

This form of empowerment, from teacher to student, is still practiced in some parts of the world, but it is a real rarity in the west. So, how do you become empowered through your Yoga practice? It would be a big help to overcome your daily obstacles. You would never feel alone because you can draw on a powerful source for help.

One of the most powerful methods of empowerment is prayer. It does not matter what your religion is, prayers exist within all forms of religion. Whether you refer to God, Allah, Yahweh, Brahman, or another name, you will feel the gift of empowerment, as a result of prayer. You can pray anywhere and at any time.

Jnana Yoga is a method for improving through the pursuit of knowledge. Learning is also another path to empowerment. You can learn from many sources, with modern technology, but always take the time to observe others. Through this method you will see what works, and what does not; but always remain ethical in your behavior, actions, and your words.

Practice your natural talents to the best of your ability. You will find an art, craft, or skill, where your talents excel. When you are good at something, you should continue to pursue that direction. Your self-esteem will reach new heights, based upon your accomplishments, and you will find empowerment.

Copyright 2007 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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