Book Report – The Eight Limbs of Yoga 

The Eight Limbs of Yoga – A handbook for living yoga philosophy. By Stuart Ray Sarbacker and Kevin Kimple.

This book is amazing! A super thin, easy to read explanation of the practice of yoga and discussion of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (which is a requirement for completing my yoga teacher training course).

I have found a lot of books about yoga are quite lengthy and not that easy to read as a beginner, so this book really simplified what can be quite complex yoga topics.

I find yoga philosophy really interesting, especially as it was concepted so, so long ago but find it is still really relevant today – especially as so many people now live such rushed and stressed lives.

I view the Yoga Sultras and The Eight Limbs of Yoga as guidelines for life rather then strict rules that must be adhered to. Although back in the day I’m sure they were adhered to strongly and even today I’m sure true yogini’s follow these quite strictly ☺️☺️

Before I started studying yoga, I thought yoga was yoga asana (posture, movement) with a little meditation and savasana thrown in every now and again,  but I now understand all limbs work together to form the practice of yoga – so I have integrated all eight limbs into my daily life.

This book details how to live the eight limbs of yoga. As a very brief summary:

Yama – Restraint. Development of mastery over one’s behaviour, specifically with respect to one’s relationship with other living beings.

Yama is made up of five practices, ahimsa or non-harming, staya or truthfulness, asteya or non-stealing, brahmacarya or sexual restraint and aparigraha or non-greed.

Niyama – Observance. The second limb, Niyama then builds on from the first limb and is how a person cultivates Yama internally within oneself, cultivating the practice of yoga to deepen one’s spiritual life.

Niyama is made up of five practices which are inline with the Yama practices. sauca or purity, samtosa or contentment, tapas or self-discipline, svadhyaya or self-study and isvarapranidhana or dedication to the lord.

Asana – Posture. Asana translates to the word seat in English and though it is the third limb it is often practiced first as a way to gain insight into the body and mind, to create a cohesive life internally within oneself and externally with others to join together or ‘to yoke’.

Pranayama – Breath Control. Developing mindfulness of the breathing process to build strength, stamina and flexibility in asana practice. Concentrating on the inhale, exhale and restraint of breath with the aim of calming the mind and preparing it for asana and meditation.

Pratyahara – Sense Withdrawl. The fifth limb is the effort to draw away from the world of the senses and into the world of the body and mind. Sense control is habit, the more it is practiced the more it becomes established and regular. This is why yoga asana often has a gazing point (drsti) associated to a particular posture – to rein the wandering mind back in ✌🏼️. I personally find this the most challenging of all the limbs.

The final three limbs are then seen to be a cohesive unit to re-discover ones true nature and leading to spiritual liberation.

Dharava – Concentration. This limb translates to mean binding of the mind to a place, the initial concentration or fixation of the mind in meditation and abandoning of distraction. Mantra, movement of breath and focusing on one object are often tools that are used. With practice the mind becomes balanced by adjusting the intensity of concentration between tension and relaxation.

Dhyana – Meditation. My favourite of all the limbs, Dhyana is the extension of the initial concentration into a flowing practice. A consistent and sustained process leading to deeper and more peaceful state of meditation. Meditation requires subtle skill and mindfulness which takes experience and practice to develop.

Samadhi – Contemplation. Once concentration has been perfected, Samadhi is the dawning of insight. When all mental fluctuations are brought to a standstill, to a point of such perfect calm that the true nature of the self and the world and self is understood. Samadhi creates bliss, ease and focus in the mind.

Overall a great, easy to understand read if you are looking to get into yoga – I would highly recommend.

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