There is no entitlement on this path, there is nothing we “deserve” just by showing up. To maintain both belief and effort over a sustained period of time we need to tap into a place inside ourselves that is beyond the physical. Over time, as we chip away at our physical body, moving and breathing, we start to uncover this inner realm, this deeper state of being.
Grace in yoga is earned through devoting ourselves to achieving higher consciousness and ultimately becoming a force of healing in the world. Our energy becomes softer and gentler, our tone quiet and more compassionate, our heart open and our mind free. This is not perfection, it is not ego, it is filled with flaws and mistakes and trip ups. There is vulnerability and wobbles, laughter and tears. Ultimately though, this is what is real, connected and in rhythm.
Proficiency on the journey of yoga takes time and dedication, it is not a quick fix, but all the benefits that we experience are lasting and true.
As move through the eight limbs, ashto angani, we meet the yamas – ahimsa (kindness), satya (truthfulness), asteya (compassion), brahmacharya (moderation), aparigraha (generosity). These can help to form our bhavana, our attitude, our way of being in the world.
Next we meet the niyamas – saucha (purification), santosha (contentment) , tapas (discipline), svadhyaha (self study), ishvara pranidana (surrender), which encourage a positive and constructive relationship with ourselves and the beginning of the cultivation of our inner landscape.
Third we meet asana, although the limbs are not necessarily approached in a linear way. There are many asana, or physical postures, that challenge our strength, flexibility, ability to surrender and to persevere. Regardless of our body and mental type, we will eventually find asana to challenge us and push us into growth. It is often while learning a new asana that we revisit aspects of the yamas and niyamas.
The fourth limb is pranayam, prana referring to energy or vital life force, and am or ama meaning control or regulation. The control or regulation of the life energy in the body enables us to alter our mental and emotional states, and it also purifies the body.
Next we meet pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses. This limb is the deepening of our relationship with our inner landscape. We meet ourselves where we are, in this moment, this place, this space. We become aware of our habitual thoughts, our persistent worries, our anxieties, our fears. With the application of pranayam, as well as the next limb, dharana we can find comfort and ease here.
Dharana means concentration and is achieved when we focus our mind on our breathing over a sustained period of time. This limb is a requirement of the next limb.
Dhyana is meditation, which is the result of dharana (concentration on the breath over a sustained period of time) where the mind begins to become more still and our thoughts begin to settle. We learn to disassociate ourselves from our thinking, and to observe our mind for what it truly is.
Samadhi the eighth limb is a state of bliss, a higher state of being, meditative consciousness, or perhaps a state of calm and contentment. It is from this state that yoga begins, and we can arguably start again moving through the eight limbs, clearing away obstacles and eliminating suffering.
Om Shanti xo