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Yoga Philosophy: The Eight Limbs Of Spiritual Living



Curious about the union between Yoga and Reiki? While neither are religions, both have various energetic principals that will help align your life for your highest and greatest good, in order to find inner peace, gratitude and a deeper relationship with your most authentic self. Read the full article below to learn more about the deeper principals of yoga as described in Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras: The Eight Limbs Of Yoga.


In Usui Reiki, we are taught the 5 principals of Reiki that are best utlised when repeated every day as a mantra (affirmation) to let go of negativity - mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. By doing this, it holds our conscious attention as we repeat them, but on a deeper, cellular level, our subconscious mind feels what we are saying and aligns our life accordingly acting 'as if' it is truth, just like when you work with the law of attraction (manifestation). Below is my embellished version of the five Reiki principals, though you can find the original ones here:


"Just for today, I let go of worry

Just for today, I let go of anger

Just for today, I am grateful for everything I have, and everything I am

Just for today, I work with honour and remain humble

Just for today, I am kind to all living things, including myself"


Since Dr. Mikao Usui first came up with them, there have been a number of differentiations between the original translation, because with great mentors and traditions, so must there be great change as we modernize theories to fit our ever transforming, fast paced lifestyles. This is true also, for the 8 limbs of yoga; which is what I want to share with you today as a reminder to go back to the basics when the future may seem unclear.


Pantanjali's Eight Limbs Of Yoga

For those who are not familiar with yoga, let me explain now, that it is a lot deeper than the Westernized version of Asana (physical posture). Rather, it is a way of aligning your life for its highest, and greatest good; just as you do when you align your life infused with Reiki. 'Living Yoga' means that you are integrating the ancient teachings on a deeper level off the mat and into your thoughts, words, actions and world. While there are many yogic traditions I would love to dive into, the one that I am going to speak to today is that of Patanjali's eight limbs, that align with the practice known as Ashtanga Yoga (vinyasa yoga is derived from here).


Pantanjali defined the eight limbs as Yamas (abstinences), Niyamas (observences), Asana (postures, physical practice), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Pratyahara (withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and finally, Samadhi (absorption, or what some might refer to as 'spiritual enlightenment'). The Sutra's are designed in order to follow a path from the physical outer world, to the intricate inner world and finding a sense of peace and freedom as we learn to accept that we are spiritual beings having a human experience - or at least that was my journey.


Would you like to journey with me?


1) The Yama's

The five Yama's can be learned to form a moral compass or code of ethics in order to live your life with purity, positivity and integrity in relation to your self and all beings. They can be mastered in order from one-five as outlined below, and revisited as necessary in whichever order you feel needs a refresh:

  • Ahimsa (अहिंसा): Non violence to self, to others, to all living things. This includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harm including negative self talk, manipulation, gas-lighting, gossiping, physically harming others in sexual/violent/mental/emotional ways, putting people down, yelling/screaming, swearing and so forth. You also might notice that some yogic based products (e.g. this lipstick brand Ahimsa) utilise this in their branding, meaning for example that they are not tested on animals, environmentally friendly (non-harming to the earth), and of course, will not harm your body.

  • Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, authenticity, true self expression and non-falsehood are all great ways of describing Satya, but its meaning in depth literally translates to 'true essence' or 'true nature'. In yoga and other traditions, we often talk about the differentiation between the 'Ego' (material/thinking/emotional mind e.g. people pleasing, wavering thoughts etc.) and 'Self'; and this is where Satya can shed some light. When you practice Satya on a regular basis, you step out of the monkey mind, and allow yourself to become the detached 'seer' - noticing what is going on internally, without reacting to it. It is human nature to react to things, to live into your emotions, to want to be surrounded by pretty things, or perhaps be someone you think other people want you to be; but Satya is about allowing your true self to shine, reminding you that everything you truly need is already inside of you; the hidden gem. The diamond in the rough. Willing and waiting, ready to be discovered.

  • Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing. While this one seems pretty self-explanatory, it also extends to not stealing other people's ideas, partners, energy, success, power, emotions and more. It relates back to Satya, meaning that we each are enough on our own, and when we live entirely within the power of our unique self expression; we don't need to feel unworthy, unseen, unheard and so forth. So in this case, it reminds us that we don't need to 'steal' anything from someone else's unique expression. Believe that you are enough, exactly as you are, and that what you know, have learned and have to share, is what people around you are truly waiting for. Honour yourself, the world doesn't need another copy-cat.

"The need to steal essentially arises because of a lack of faith in ourselves to be able to create what we need by ourselves"
  • Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint. In a lot of religions, it is believed that sexual acts take away from our spirituality, and in yoga, it is no different. It is believed that when we share that energy with another person (or even via masturbation), we are letting go of some of our own vital essence/life force and using energy that could be better spent on our spiritual practices, leading us toward enlightenment (Samadhi). While it isn't something easily utilised in the modern era, it is something to consider or play around with if your spiritual path is calling you on a deeper path. If nothing else, consider Brahmacharya a calling to direct attention inward in order to find peace and happiness within, instead of trying to find happiness in the external world (e.g. material possessions, other people, food, addiction and of course, sexual pleasure)

  • Aparigraha (अपरिग्रह): non-avarice, non-possessiveness, non-attachment, non-coveting. Reminding us here that everything we need, is already within us waiting to be found and utilised is the fifth and final lesson of the Yama's. It teaches us to let go of jealousy, greed, anger and resentment towards others for what they might have or be. It teaches us to take only what we need (especially in supermarkets right now!) and let go when the time is right. It teaches us to be more mindful of the needs and wants of others, and perhaps they will then also see, that they already have abundance living and breathing within. Remember again that you are enough, and you already have everything you need.


2) The Niyamas

The Niyamas are a set of practices that aid both in self-discipline and our worldly view, with their duty being that soulful journey within. Again, they are designed to be followed on from the Yama's in order, but each can also be studied as an individual unit when you feel called to it:

  • Saucha (शौच): purification, cleanliness of mind, speech and body. Saucha basically reminds us that with a clear body, we can create a clearer mind. This could mean detoxing your diet to eliminate stimulants (coffee, caffeinated drinks, drugs), depressants (alcohol, cigarettes, drugs), sugar, medications, manufactured foods and even meat. It could mean that you ensure you release your bowels first thing in the morning, and purify your digestive system with pure water and herbal teas along with other traditional yogic purification practices (Panchakarma). It could mean that you always make sure your body is bathed, and your hair is washed. It could also mean, that you pay attention to what you listen to, read, partake in and spend your time doing. Clear body, clear mind, clear thought = clearer connection with the highest and greatest self.

  • Santosha (संतोष): contentment. So much more than being 'happy', contentment is a state of mindfulness that allows us to let go of attachment, jealousy, or all the things that we think we need in order to make life 'better' and allow ourselves to idly sit back, relinquishing the fact that we need to 'do' anything. In Italy, they have a saying "Il Dolce Far Niente" which translates to "the art of doing nothing". From this, we can imagine the old timers sitting around drinking aperitif's in the afternoon sun, being grateful for simply 'being'. It also sheds light on the fact that 'Santosha' is not just an Eastern philosophy, but perhaps rather, just one that the modern Australian has simply forgotten. At it's deepest level, it is about appreciating what we already have (similar to the third Reiki principle) and are (as well as those around us) and accepting that we don't need more in order to fulfil a 'successful' life. Nothing needs to change externally, it's our minds that need to be rewritten in order to become more grateful, and ever optimistic.

  • Tapas (तपस्): willpower, perseverance, austerity and self-discipline. Have you ever noticed that when things get hard, you naturally want to stop? When we study our selves, it is often that we uncover what we perceive as 'ugly truths' or find things we simply don't like about ourselves. We can also find that in order to change, we must take persistent action, and for a lot of us, taking those steps towards success can be scary. Tapas reminds us to hold unwavering faith for the end goal, because it's often after the darkest night, that the light will grace us with its presence. If you are new to yoga asana and its getting 'hard'; keep going and let the path guide you. If you want to change your career path, but you have to study and face uncertainty; trust that something better will come your way because of it. If you are in an unhealthy relationship that's no longer serving you; find the courage to leave and create a better life. Time is so precious, so why would you waste another second not chasing the dream within your soul that needs to be realised.

  • Svadhyaya (स्वाध्याय): study of the ancient vedas (hindu scripts said to have been written by 'the source'); study of self; self-reflection; introspection of thoughts, speech and actions. Enough said. This is your time to journal, to reflect on how much you've grown, to calculate your next steps, and to monitor your thoughts, actions and speech in order to create the life you want to bring towards you (e.g. law of attraction). To take it a step further, you can of course find a translation of the Veda's, but be warned, it's not an easy read and much of it won't make sense.

  • Ishvara Pranidhana (ईश्वरप्रणिधान): surrender. Perhaps a step that people naturally come to first, as opposed to last, this is when you begin to contemplate God/Supreme Being/Higher Self/Goddess/Source or whatever you feel comfortable calling it. This can also be seen as our True Self and unchanging reality as when we have mastered the Yama's and Niyama's, we see that all that is left, is the truest most simple version of ourselves, which can sometimes also lead to a life epiphany or clear space for our destiny to come forth. When we learn to surrender and stop pushing against the grain, we often see that life is being guided as it is truly and deeply aligned to be. Let go of control, and allow yourself to let the light shine on your life.


3) Asana

This is yoga as most people know it - the physical practice or 'postures' (Asana आसन) lead by an instructor on a mat. Yoga means 'union', that is, the union of the body, mind and soul, and it is often through the physical practice that people start to feel that alignment. You might notice aches and pains that you didn't know existed. You might notice inflexibility somewhere in the body that reflects where you might be holding it in your mental, or emotional life. You might notice 'stuckness', fluid movement, peace of mind, deep insight, emotional release (how many of you have cried in a hip opener or felt unconditional love in a heart opener?) or you might suddenly feel into a deeper appreciation for yourself and your body as the vehicle that moves you through life. For those of you who still think that yoga is for 'young people', flexible-pretzels, women/men, or whatever preconceived idea you have in your head; you are wrong. Yoga is for everyone and anyone who wants to learn and while it might seem out of reach for you right now; you will find that with practice, you will find that reach (pun intended). On a side note, Asana should never be painful, but rather, it should allow you to break through a position of discomfort, and ultimately make it comfortable. Forget the yoga-grammers, the only person you need to compare yourself to, is the one you were yesterday. Progress over perfection.



4) Pranayama

Depending on where you are in your spiritual journey, you might already be familiar with pranayama. The word 'Prana' refers to the energy within your body, your life force/chi/ki or whatever else you may have heard it referred to in your cultural, religious and spiritual pursuits. It can be used to describe the very essence that keeps us alive, as well as the collective, universal energy that surrounds us at all times. 'Prana' (प्राण) in Sanskrit means 'breath'; so all together now, you can understand the importance of utilising the breath to enhance your spiritual wellbeing by paying attention to how we utilize it.


"Pranayama can be understood as either 'prana-yama' which could mean 'breath control' or 'breath restraint', or it could be understood as 'prana-ayama' which would translate as 'freedom of breath', 'breath expansion' or 'breath liberation'"

While there are a number of different pranayama exercises you can find and work with, it's important to understand how they work, why they work, and which ones you feel aligned to as well as the ones you want to push away from you - these are often the ones that will create the most change within. A good place to start is to just focus on taking three really deep breaths through your nose for a count of four, holding it in for a count of one or two at the top of the breath with your belly expanded, and then exhaling through your nose for a count of four. To mix it up, try the exhalations through the mouth and decide which feels better for you. A personal favourite of mine is alternative nostril breathing which can really help balance the left and right sides of the mind bringing you focus and clarity, or Kapalabhati (shining skull cleansing breath) to help stimulate energy and digestive fire (Agni).



5) Pratyahara

The word 'Pratya' means to withdraw, draw in, or draw back while 'ahara' refers to the things that we take in around us such as sight, smell, stimulation and so forth. To make this clear, this step isn't about trying to switch off our attention to our senses; but rather to pay close attention to how the body is 'being' without letting the externals become a distraction - how we breath; what we might feel on our skin as we lie on the mat; where we might be holding physical tension; what emotions are coming up; the smells and sounds around us. The consciousness of the individual is able to be internalised through control at this stage in order that the above mentioned senses (taste, smell, sight, touch, hearing) don't reach the respective centres of the brain, allowing the practitioner to elevate through the next stages of The Yoga Sutras with ease.


This is an important stepping stone between the external focus of the previous physical and external focuses of yoga, and the more internal, steps that arise on the path next. Again, it's not about losing the ability to sense; it's about becoming detached from what is going on around us, and being able to concentrate with control on what is going on within, without distraction. Experienced practitioners may be able to translate pratyahara into everyday life – being so concentrated and present on the moment at hand, that things like sensations and sounds don’t easily distract the mind.


6) Dharana

'Dha' means to 'hold' or 'maintain' while 'Ana' means 'something else' or 'other' a.k.a. focused concentration. While it is closely linked to the previous steps (asana, pranayama and pratyahara); it is vitally about being able to focus on something without distraction so all senses are applied on that one point of concentration with intent (mindfulness). Some great meditative practices to utilise here are Tratak (candle gazing, a personal fav), visualization, focusing on the breath, and even holding an asana for a long period of time without allowing your senses to flood in and tell you that you are in pain (discomfort and pain are very different things!).


7) Dhyana

As above, the purpose of Dhyana is to still the mind, but unlike what you may know about the Western versions of meditation, the seventh limb of Patanjali's eight limbs, is about 'meditative absorption'. Here, we allow ourselves to become so deeply entrenched in the mediation, that nothing outside of our internal, spiritual being seems to exist. While there are many apps, classes or practices that will essentially help you arrive at the first stage of actively 'mediating', you are not meditating if your ego suddenly announces to itself 'I'm mediating!' - sound familiar? Don't beat yourself up in the process of really arriving here though as every time you 'meditate' via an app, teacher, class or practice, it is still an active step to alleviate stress, help you become more calm, focused and mindful, internalized and allow even deeper stages of 'enlightenment' to come your way.



8) Samadhi

Samadhi roughly translates to bliss, realisation or enlightenment and this is the final step in Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras. As a long term yogini, I've often thought to myself that I must have reached this appreciated state of 'spiritual enlightenment' (surely by now?!) through the hundreds of various practices I've learned, tried and worked at along my life; but whether I have or haven't is still forever in debate as even after arriving there, the time actually spent there, is short lived. Most people will agree, that 'Samadhi' is not a constant or consistent state that you can live and breath from (though this lived in state can be referred to as 'Moksha'). It is fleeting, it is famed, and it is something that most spiritual junkies will chase for a lifetime without ever truly arriving at. But, that's no reason not to stay the course.

When we have worked through the physical, external steps of yoga and delved into the emotional, mental and spiritual ones; we enable ourselves to become open to this final 'bliss state' and that's something worth spending a lifetime chasing.


Breaking the word down, we see that this final elusive stage is made up of the words 'Sama' meaning 'equal' or 'same'; and 'dhi' meaning 'to see'. In this sense, it really leans into the meaning of 'realisation' because it's not about floating away into a lifelong 'higher state' detached from reality; it is about realising that life as we want to truly create it in fact, lies in front of us, waiting for us to lay claim on it and realise that everything we could ever want and need, is already within us, it is energy just like we are, and is therefore, within our reach. It leans into the power of the 'manifestation' or the 'law of attraction'. It leans into 'Nirvana' in the Buddhist sense of the word. It leans into the ability to see the world we want to create with an unwavering, undisturbed mind without submitting to conditioning of any sorts and then choosing to take the path of unlearning all that we have from the moment we arrived in the world. It teaches us to let go of judgement or attachment; to outcomes, people, experiences, emotions, or 'things'; and land in a state that is so elevated (whilst remaining humble) we in fact, are living in a state of pure bliss with unwavering faith in the universal laws, safety, security and power of source/the divine/god - or perhaps just our own inner goddess.

"Just as the theologian Meister Eckhart used the word isticheit meaning ‘is-ness’ as referring to the pure knowledge of seeing and realising just ‘what is’, this stage is not about attaching to happiness or a sensation of ‘bliss’, but instead it’s about seeing life and reality for exactly what it is, without our thoughts, emotions, likes, dislikes, pleasure and pain fluctuating and governing it. Not necessarily a state of feeling or being, or a fixed way of thinking; just pure ‘I – am-ness’."

That last little quote has surely got to be one to consider, rethink, reposition and strive for over a lifetime - so on that note, I'll let you absorb all of this, and decide: what will you take away from this?


The Yogic Path

Yoga if nothing else, remains to be about union - of body, of mind, of emotions and of the soul/spirit. It has the power to challenge and change you on all levels to the depth that you take it. It has to power to shift energy and stuck emotions; aid with sleep, mobility and flexibility of body and mind; to promote inner peace; to find purpose and meaning; to become humbled by the world around you and within you; and to find a depth of connection you may not find anywhere else, no matter how hard you search or how much you spend in the process.


While yoga is not classified as a religion, you can turn it into a daily practice and lifestyle (on and off the mat) that suits you, and of which has the power to transform your world - mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.


Yoga is the journey to the self, through the self, that is different for every being; and so, the most important lesson you can take away from this is that you have the power to change your life through what you pay the most attention to. Stop telling yourself "I can't", and start remembering that you CAN actually do, be and have anything you want - you just need to create the vision and start taking action on that path -

Every.

Single.

Day.


Thank-you so much for taking the time to read this, and if you LOVED what you read, please share it with friends or family that may appreciate these insights too as a gentle nudge in the right direction.


On a REIKI note:


I am VERY EXCITED to announce that I will be holding my FIRST ever Reiki Level One training in Melbourne on Saturday April 9 - Sunday April 10 for an investment of $555 including all training manuals and a special gift from me to you. Places are limited so I can make sure you have my utmost attention; but I will also consider a second weekday training if I receive your request. Please email me at m.elouise@outlook.com to sign up and pay your deposit in order to hold your place; and please note that refunds will be given wholly and fully if the course is cancelled outside of my control.


Click Here: for details and to secure your place!



Until my next blog,


Love & light,

Monique Elouise xx



🌟🌟 P.s In person Reiki sessions in Melbourne will be open from April 1 - April 17 2022 - book in early to avoid missing out!🌟🌟






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