A comprehensive guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga

^^^^ Check out a photo shoot I did with Rachael, a beautiful yogi. Her spirit is so amazing, and as I let her do whatever pose came to her while a thunderstorm echoed under the bridge, I realized how the 8 limbs of yoga can translate from the art form of yoga to my art form, photography.

The 8 limbs of yoga. Us yogis, we live by them in our practice, and we all aim to take them from the mat and into our daily life. And the truth is, without them, where would the evolution of yoga have gone (if anywhere)?

Click the link up there ^^^ for a very cool timeline of important moments in the shaping of modern yoga, including when the sutras were written.

Confession: I didn’t know about the 8 limbs until I bought a new mat about 4 months ago. I know I know, I’m sorry! I’m not worthy! But better late than never, right?
On the paper label wrapped around the mat, there was a section entitled “Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.” The description was this:
“The following wisdom is from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, written thousands of years ago. The practice of mystic yoga can be categorized into the following eight parts:” etc etc. Obviously I cut it out, and it now lives on a shelf above my bed. I read it from time to time to remind myself why I came to practice, how far I’ve come, how far I have to go and what yoga is meant to be. And let me tell you, as a twenty-one-year-old whippersnapper in the midst of a city, they mean something totally different than older yogis who are wise and more stable than I am. But that’s also what yoga is about: applying these basic principals to ourselves, no matter how different we may be. So here’s what they mean to me, and how I learned about them. I could go on and on about these eight limbs, as I’m sure you can too, but I’ll keep it brief so you don’t fall asleep on me (or quit reading because you’re bored, that woud be bad too). Bear with me, there’s some really cool infographics to simplify all this for you as you go along.

  1. Yama: universal morality, control of the senses. Yamas are our attitude toward others and how we are to deal with things outside of ourselves. The five wise characteristics in yamas kind of remind me of the commandments of the Bible, except softer, gentler (and totally less daunting). The gist of them is this: don’t take more than you need (don’t steal), neutralize your greed, have compassion for all living things, speak the truth and control yourself. Pretty easy, right? Simply put, control yourself. Think about your actions, pay attention to the world around you and live to your means.
  2. Niyama: Personal observances, or how we relate internally to ourselves. There are also “rules” for this, ranging from cleanliness, finding self awareness in everything we do, staying fit, keeping pure and being content with what we have. Personaly, I need to remember this one. It’s really easy to get caught up in all the Continue reading

8 Reasons Why I Don’t Have Time for Yoga, & why I still practice

Photo from the article "8 Reasons Why I Don't Have Time for Yoga"

Photo source: Alli Akard

8 Reasons Why I Don’t Have Time for Yoga

Remember 7th Heaven, the overly dramatic but oh-so-addicting TV show from the late ’90s into the early ’00s? One of the older girls gave a sermon one time titled: “Where did our Sundays go?” The whole point of her sermon was that Sundays used to be a day people set aside to worship, relax, rest and get ready for the new week. But now, Sunday is the day to catch up, on laundry, on sleep, on household chores. It’s a day for BBQs, drinking beer and watching football, and even shopping. So the reality is, where did our Sundays go? Where did that day go that we all used to take time and reflect? When do we as people take time to relax and, you know, actually be real people instead of workaholic machines?
8 Reasons Why I Don’t Have Time for Yoga kind of reminds me of that (I promise you’ll get it once you read the article).

[Spoiler alert: the 8 reasons have to do with the 8 limbs of yoga.]

In my practice this past Tuesday, Rachel, my teacher, had us lay in savasana (I know, you’re probably thinking ‘wait, at the beginning?!’) and find our breath. “It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or experienced at this, breathing deeply… is yoga,” she said. I found this really inspiring for some reason. Alli, author of 8 Reasons Why I Don’t Have Time for Yoga, gives us all the reasons why she doesn’t have time for yoga: kids, allergies, always being busy, having her attention pulled in 10 different directions, a lack of sleep on a good day, etc. However, she reminds the readers after all of her reasons why she does yoga: it’s a journey.
Alli writes, “but the reality is that yoga is not something I can master overnight or at any particular stage in my life; it is an ongoing journey that may not even be completed in this lifetime.”
Even if it’s 20 minutes of deep breathing, you are working on yourself. That’s a beautiful thought, right? As human beings, we are all evolving with each day. And as yogis, we are also always evolving. It took me almost a year to do any kind of a decent forward fold. Two weeks ago, I mastered crow pose. And Tuesday I did my first handstand (yay!!). But some days, all we can do is 5 minutes of a sun salutation. But those five minutes are everything. The beautiful thing about yoga is that it can be practiced virtually anywhere, at any time, and it is always shaping and evolving with the yogi. Tuesday night was the first time I got to practice in over a week because of my schedule. I work two jobs on top of my classes, and once the evenings hit and I finally get home, I just don’t have the energy to practice. So Tuesday, I carted my mat around with me to work, then to class, then finally to an hour-long practice filled with core strengthening poses and vinyasas. And although by the time I got to my practice I just wanted to curl up and sleep, that hour was so rejuvenating that I left and came home to do some much needed housework. No matter how long my practice is, I always leave better than when I came in.

And that’s the point of yoga: to spend time being in connection with oneself and ultimately, bettering oneself. At least, that’s just the humble opinion of a young, still wide-eyed yogi.

So, if you don’t have time to read the article (oh crap, you gotta run out and do the five things on your list you didn’t get to do yesterday!) Here’s my favorite passage:

“But the reality is that yoga is not something I can master overnight or at any particular stage in my life; it is an ongoing journey that may not even be completed in this lifetime.

If I wasn’t living the path of yoga every day, I would be completely lost in the thick of all the chaos. Having this methodology to focus on helps me be a overall a better human being. When I do feel out of control or lost and scared, there is a place I can refer to and find some peace.”

Namaste, and may you find your peace this coming week.


competitive yogaThat’s not very zen! The rise of the yoga competition.

This is a very recent article (published January 1, 2013) about the growing popularity of competitive yoga. Just last year, yoga was proposed as an olympic sport. Crazy, right? But take a look at how some of these seasoned yogis twist, bend and balance.
[photo from article, photographer: Benjamin Lorr]

Studies show yoga benefits mental health disorders

yoga on the beachWhile it’s a well known fact that yoga is beneficial for the body, new studies are now showing that yoga may help fight major mental health disorders. I think the whole of the yoga community already knew this fact, but to see it published in professional print is something else entirely. As a young yogi, I can honestly say that yoga may have saved my young life, or at least my mental health. Countless personal stories reveal that yoga helps to balance one’s life. That’s crazy to think about, right? The idea that practicing a series of poses can help a person’s physical, mental, social and psychological health is really nuts. But yoga is so much more than cool-looking poses. The first thing a yogi does when he or she starts a practice is frees their mind. Breathing becomes a focus of the mind. Breathing connects the mind to the body, and life starts to fade away. That’s also a crazy thought: letting life fade away for however long the practice is, to work on oneself. It’s selfish, even, taking time out of the day to devote solely to oneself. But, studies now show, the benefits are endless to the practice, including opening up extensive mental progression. It has positive effects on mild depression, sleep complaints and “improves symptoms associated with schizophrenia and ADHD in patients on medication.” The review of the studies found that “yoga influences key elements of the human body,” elements that help out the mind in “similar ways to that of antidepressants and psychotherapy.” While drugs and therapy is expensive, yoga is relatively affordable, and it doesn’t have to be done alone. Not only is yoga great for the body, but its benefits of the mind are of even more importance and recognition.

As yoga has become an international sensation, it becomes apparent now why the attraction is so high: everyday it seems, more benefits are discovered in the 5,000-year-old Indian practice.