Observing ways the Eight Limbs of Yoga are so important are relevant today. Taking all the limbs into your life can cultivate greater joy. Let's start with the first part Yamas ( The Restraints)
I feel I would like to explain why the eight limbs of yoga are so important and also highlight how they are relevant today. Taking the other seven limbs into your life can cultivate greater happiness.
To me, only practising the physical limb ( asana) is like making a cake with only one ingredient. Just like the cake, one isn’t going to rise as well without the other components. Though asana (postures) are excellent, imagine also teaming asana with the other limbs, and in turn reaching your full potential.
Through practice and experiencing life, I have come to appreciate the richness and simplicity of Patanjali’s full yogic philosophy and wisdom, and how it is so very relevant in today’s world.
WHAT ARE THE EIGHT LIMBS?
I could list them down in a very textbook style which would be of high relevance. However, I want to show you a way that explains their great significance even today; I am going to simplify but at the same time not steal the wisdom of Patanjali’s philosophy. If you want to go deeper after reading this article, I suggest reading the book titled The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali.
PART ONE-YAMAS (THE RESTRAINTS)
In a sense, the Yamas to me feel like guidelines for good mental health, plus they help to cultivate a positive attitude towards life, and are also offer pillars to help keep it all together. They offer a structure that honours the unpredictability, of life as well as adding support against the backdrop of the somewhat volatile but magical nature of personal growth. The are four components to limb number one. They are:
NUMBER 1: AHIMSA- THE PRACTICE OF NON VIOLENCE
This practice extends to yourself and in the way of thoughts, unchecked emotions, verbal and physical abuse. Working on oneself so you become more present and less reactive.
To tap into this, think of compassion and gift it to yourself and others. I’m not saying be a walkover, but I am encouraging all to see each situation with open fresh eyes! If you are struggling with compassion, try to study the life of the late Princess Diana. She was from a privileged background, had an unhappy marriage, and was expected to follow a specific protocol but still made time to help those in more need than herself.
If you are having difficulty practising compassion, try one step at a time. Stop, pause and think each time you aren’t feeling so compassionate, and see how you can change that. Remember to be compassionate towards yourself in the process!
I also feel one should be more aware of the food you eat and where it comes from. Yes, cut price meals may be on special at the supermarket but at what cost to the environment and others? With each and every purchase decide if it is a compassionate buy.
NUMBER 2 ASTEYA- THE PRACTICE OF NOT STEALING
Stealing isn’t just about a burglary or other crimes that involve taking that which does not belong to you. Stealing could be stealing time, stealing ideas and stealing a space in the bus queue. I feel it also about not putting yourself in such high regard that you believe you are above others. In contrast believing you are worth less than others is stealing from yourself. This kind of behaviour snips away at your self-esteem and in turn, hinders your life. Balance is the key; balanced living leads to a happier life.
NUMBER 3 BRAHMACHARYA- THE PRACTICE OF CONTINENCE
This limb is all about physical urges and the control over that which doesn’t serve our being. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience. Therefore, to think that you will never give in to any urges is not respecting the human side of nature. In turn, giving yourself a hard time for failing to resist that packet of chips in shorts means you aren’t practising Yama number 2.
Bad habit though can be overcome. Yoga is a great tool to help with this.
It’s about being aware of our self-sabotage tendencies. I feel Brachmacharya goes deeper than the practice of continence as it requires sometimes digging into places that one often avoids ‘feeling’. If for example you are trying to lose weight for health reasons and yet you find yourself stuffing that extra cake in your mouth after your exercise class, dig deeper and find out why you are doing this. What is the emotional reward you are trying to get from eating that cake? So, for example, it may be to feel loved. Next time this happens, pause, think of another way you can feel love towards yourself and have the Brahmacharya and courage to break the habit.
Also, what goals in life are you trying to reach but in turn are stopping yourself from achieving? Maybe repeating to yourself the saying ‘I will start tomorrow’ could be part of the problem? Well, who knows any of us have a tomorrow! Live each day like it is your first day and your last. Time is precious so why waste it? You have a job to do on this planet, figure out what that is and get to it.
LET AWARENESS BE YOUR GUIDE THROUGH LIFE
For serious addictions please seek professional help.
NUMBER 4- APARIGRAHA THE PRACTICE OF NON COVETING
Possession and greed, the need to control and take only led to the inability to practice the other Yamas and in a way hinder one from receiving the true beauty that life has to offer, love.
A few say that a some large organisations purchase and hide patents to amazing inventions that can help people. Rumour has it they do this for money and to keep them hidden from the world and hence keep the prices up on what is already available. Who knows if these conspiracy rumours are correct, but if they are then these companies are stealing.
Sharing is caring after all!
To summarise, Yamas, the first branch of the eight limbs, is all about our attitude to life, ourselves and others. The Yamas feels like a universal set of morals and codes that compassionately, and with balance, strive to bring peace from pain, karma, and in a sense strengthen our being and soul. It’s about excepting our humanism, after all, we will make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them!