The 8 Limbs
Before I started practicing yoga, I saw it as so many of us do - a form of exercise that you have to be really flexible in order to participate in. All the photos I saw of thin women balancing and bending their bodies online looked impressive - and way out of my reach.
When I started practicing yoga on a more regular basis, I quickly learned that it is so much more than the physical. I had classes where I'd leave feeling empowered and strong; where I'd have an emotional release and epiphany about my worth; where I'd written a full poem while lying in savasana.
What was it about yoga that allowed me to tap into these deeper areas of myself? Was it the breath work? Environment? Soothing voice of the instructor? Was it the postures themselves? The meditation? The pacing? I've experienced the "runner's high" before, but this was different - rather than just feeling great, yoga helped me tap into my deeper truths - which didn't always feel comfortable or welcome, but always felt like they pointed me in the direction of growth and self-exploration.
It wasn't until my first day of yoga teacher training that I learned of the 8 limbs of yoga. The limbs serve as guidelines for living a meaningful life, and they are all important parts of a yoga practice. Yes, one of these is the "asanas" or postures - which is what we tend to equate with "yoga" from the outside looking in. The reality is, this is just a part of yoga that we can see with our eyes - if I'm shining the mirror on someone else in a yoga practice, this is what I will see. I might make judgments based on what I see - judgments about that person, or about myself. The other limbs are revealed and practiced when we shine the mirror back onto ourselves - for example, developing an awareness of and a curiosity around the judgments we are making, rather than simply allowing these judgments to pass through, unchallenged.
So what are the other limbs of yoga? In the posts that follow, I'll be sharing a bit about each of the eight limb, and how I make sense of them.