In stillness we find our might. In darkness we find our Light.
Turn the senses inward for your insight. Your Truth awaits you.
Tracy - Shiva Gian

What is Yoga?

According to Patanjali, Yoga is a Science with the intention of understanding and mastering the mind (p xi). In Sutra 2 Book 1 (B1S2), we begin with the goal of Yoga - to be able to control the thoughts in the mind, thoughts that distract us, disillusion us, and hide the Truth of our Being.

Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah. 
Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam.
Yoga is the mastery of the activities of the mind-field. 
Then the seer rests in its true nature.

The Yogic experience is a practice that should be engaged in regularly. You learn to see how the mind can create a world filled with despair and hate, or love and beauty. For me, I see this as understanding that much of what has been socialized into us is not real - our social roles and expectations, things we think define our identity and purpose in life. These are false ideologies - from the simplest of girls do this and boys do that, to the deepest of religious teachings that claim we are born in sin, impure, and in need of salvation and redemption.

Yoga is a science that teaches us an experience of union with our true self, offering tools (eight limbs) and insight (Sutras) to reach and meet this state of divine grace in this physical form: "Samadhi is a state of being in which Supreme Consciousness flows unrestricted through us." (Herring, 2017: 19). Our goal is to attain liberation.

As a result of yoga or sustained, focused attention, the Self, or Seer, is firmly established in its own form, and we act from a place from our own true, authentic Self. B1S3

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Herring (2017) notes that the Eight Limbs (Ashtanga) of Yoga is an eight-fold path to living a meaningful and purposeful life (p45), and cover all aspects of 'self-care' - mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical, in addition to moral and ethical guidelines for those engaging in the committed practice of Yoga. Patanjali lists these in B2S29:
The Eight Limbs of Yoga are:
1) Yama - Abstentions
2) Niyama - Observances
3) Asana - Postures
4) Pranayama - Breath Control
5) Prayahara - Sense Withdrawal
6) Dharana - Concentration
7) Dhyana - Meditation
8) Samadhi - Contemplation, absorption or superconscious state (p125)
All eight limbs are equal to each other and each is necessary (Satchidananda, 1987: 125)

In the first limb, there are five Yamas (B2S30) that guide one's behaviour in relation to ethics and integrity:
Ahimsa means non-violence to self and others;
Satya means truthfulness without harming another;
Asteya means non-stealing, which includes energy and peace not just material things;
Brahmacharya means continence or using energy correctly;
Aparigraha means non-greed or non-attachment.
These ethical standards and principles apply in day to day life and routine, in addition to on the mat/within the Yoga practice.

The second limb of Yoga is Niyama, which addresses self-discipline and spiritual observances (Herring, 2017: 46) or duties. These self-disciplinary practices focuses on our relationship with ourselves and habits for healthy living, and ultimately in achieving Samadhi:
Saucha - Cleanliness;
Santosha - Contentment;
Tapas - Discipline/Passion;
Svadhyaya - studying the sacred scriptures and oneself;
Isvara Pranidhana - Surrendering to God (B2S32).
In these practices, we can see how we come to the mat/our Yoga practice, which in turn shows us how we show up for ourselves the rest of the time. The Niyamas ask us to take personal responsibility and accountability for our energy, our emotions, our thoughts, and our actions.

The third limb of Yoga is Asana, which are postures for the physical body. Although the Sutras do not mention any of the Asanas by name (B2S46), there is an understanding that the physical body is where the Spirit is housed, and as such, must be taken care so that it may carry us in our journey. Working with the body and postures allows us to tune into only the physical body and what it is saying to us about our mind-stuff, and our emotions. Importantly, the body must be in proper alignment and posture to allow Prana to flow correctly, which leads to the next limb.

The fourth limb of Yoga is Pranayama, which is breath control (B2S49). When one understands that Prana is the life force within us, and that its flow reflects our current spiritual, mental, and emotional state, we can learn to unite with it and allow it to fill us completely. Good breath flow is good for all components of the physical body, has shown proven positive effects on mental health, and is an aid to regulating emotional fluctuations.

The fifth limb of Yoga Pratyahara in which we have moved from the more physical aspects of Self in the eight limbs, to the internal and mental aspects. We leave the physical behind in the fifth limb of withdrawal of senses and removal of stimuli (B2S54). When we are less distracted by the external world, we can shift our awareness to our internal world. This allows self-reflection and a way to see what is working for us and what is not. It also allows us to learn control over the senses. [For those who are sensitive to the Emotions of others, Empaths like myself, the practice of Pratyahara is very important. Going within and finding the space that belongs to only You, so that you can 'know thyself'.]

The sixth limb of Yoga is Dharana, which is concentration to focus the mind on one object of concentration for long periods of time (B3S1). In the previous limb we have distraction of the senses, and here we tackle distractions of the mind, reminiscent of those aggravating pop-ups that used to be so common on internet browsers (some were malware, and every time you clicked to close it, more would open up - this reminds me of people's thoughts). Satchindananda refers to taming the monkey mind (p173), and being patient when our mind runs off and we must recall it and try again to tame it. The aim is for one-pointed concentration.

The seventh limb of Yoga is Dhyana, which is meditation or contemplation (B3S2) and is sometimes confused with Dharana. Dhyana is a an awareness of concentration without focus, whereas Dharana is active focus. In Dhyana, the focus and awareness just is, and a stillness exists. Dhyana can be compared to sleeping, in that you've left the body, you've left the Earth plane that measures time, space and distance; the mind transcends body consciousness (Satchidananda, 1987: 174).

The eighth and final limb of Yoga is Samadhi - state of bliss, divine grace, ecstasy, and awareness that moves beyond the Self and into the space of collective consciousness and All that Is (B3S3). A deep connection to the Essence, and an experience of what Is - being absorbed energetically. It is not something that can be practiced in the same way as the other limbs, as it is an experience.

 Tracy Kennedy - Shiva Gian


Herring, D. (2017). Shine On Yoga 200 Hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training Manual.

Satchidananda, Sri Swami (1987). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Translation and Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda. Integral Yoga Publications, Yogaville: Virginia.  

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