Using the Eight Limb System of Yoga to Construct a Personal Practice

As you build a personal yoga practice, it’s wise to start with a strong foundation. For this we can turn to the original structure of yoga. Its 8-limb system is arranged to give us a sturdy base upon which to build a dedicated practice.

For those of you who are unfamiliar or need a refresher, the original system of yoga is comprised of 8 different sections or parts: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. They translate from Sanskrit as: restraints, observances, postures, breathing, sense-withdrawal, concentration, meditation and contemplation.

The yamas along with the niyamas are the footings needed to support a steady and meaningful yoga practice. They are the principles for all of the other tiers to stand upon. I think of them as the ten commandments of yoga. They provide incentive, motivation and dedication to hold up the next levels.

One of the most familiar yamas is ahimsa or non-violence. Ahimsa is an important first level to construct because it asks us to pay attention to the way we are treating ourselves and each other. The word violence can appear to be harsh but hurtful behavior, talk and thoughts are part of everyday life. It is only when we closely observe our patterns that we can truly understand the agitation we live with each day.

Most of us have a little extra time during this holiday season to reflect and reenergize ourselves. I, for one, am taking the opportunity each morning to refresh my viewpoint. How did my thoughts, words and actions communicate kindness yesterday and how can I extend my light today?

This is an opportune time of the year to spread the light of love. Focusing on what is positive, healing and joyful so that your radiance can spread – from family to neighborhood to community and onward.

As promised, I am now using this blog to supplement my new book, Yoga Posts: Building a Steady Yoga Practice One Day at a Time. This week’s post refers back to Chapter #8: Do No Harm. If you wish to start at the beginning of our journey, please look to my first post.

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