The eight limbs of yoga – Asana

We’ve been exploring the first two limbs of yoga; yamas and niyamas, now it’s time to look at the third limb of yoga – asanas. Asanas are the physical poses. Many people who are new to yoga assume that yoga is only about asanas. As you can see, the physical poses are just the tip of the iceberg. Patanjali, an Indian sage who is the forefather of yoga, wrote in his Yoga Sutras 2500 years ago about the eight limbs of yoga – a path to enlightenment. He defined yoga as the stilling of the movements of the mind and has described eight steps to finding stillness. Asanas, or the physical poses are the third step after the ethical and moral observances. When viewed with this perspective, asanas are simply a method to prepare the body and mind for meditation. They are a means to an end only. Asanas are performed to rid the body of tension and stress, allowing it to perform in peak condition so that the meditator need not be concerned with physical ails. It’s only with the proliferation of yoga in the West that the asanas have risen in popularity over the remaining seven limbs. Whilst many people are initially drawn to yoga for the physical aspect, they start to notice improvements in other parts of their life. As our practice develops, it becomes infused with the wisdom and philosophy of the ancient sages. We start to notice a shift, we become more aware, we become calmer and start to notice improvements in all areas of our life – not just physically. I’m often asked by new students how long it will take to see results, I tell them it is their friends and family who will notice first. Sure you might lose weight and become more flexible with a regular practice, but be open to the transformational effects of yoga on the rest of your life. Have you noticed any changes? We’d love to hear how yoga has improved your life.

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