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

My first experience with watching yoga instead of practicing

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I think we can all agree that yoga is something truly beautiful. But have you ever sat and watched a practice in person, and not just in a video?

This past Tuesday, instead of practicing in the class I take at school I decided instead to watch the practice instead. I decided to watch the practice both with my eyes and through my camera lens, and I must say, I’m still in awe at how amazing a practice is in person.

Seldom times we think about the other people in the room when we practice, but that’s the whole point of yoga: we work on ourselves for that amount of time. Nothing else (and no one else, really) matters. So I was struck when I was watching this practice at how beautifully everyone moved, together but ever-so-slightly separate with each person’s individual pace. As I took in the whole room, I noticed some things: the variety of dress, from dance clothes to athletic shorts to leggings and spaghetti straps. I noticed the variety of skill level: from guys with too much muscle to bind their arms to dancers that can twist and bend like it’s nothing, and everything in-between. But what I found most beautiful while watching was the variety of people that came together to practice. Like all universities, some groups don’t mix. The jocks don’t particularly mix with the dancers, the dancers don’t mix with the psychology majors, the business majors don’t mix with the photographers, and so on. All of that is forgotten, though, when each person steps into the room with their mat.

The best thing about yoga, in my opinion, is the fact that it does not discriminate. Anyone can practice. Young, old, flexible, barely able to touch your toes, seasoned yogis or amateurs, yoga has something for everyone. In the threshold of the doorway, we leave everything behind. No one is better than anyone else in the room. I had known this before, of course, but I had not fully understood it until I watched a group of individuals, who are all so different, both move and breathe together.

Now that, my friends, is truly beautiful.


Sneak peek from my practice shoot


Sneak peek from my practice shoot

Last night I had the pleasure of shooting the yoga class I take at my university. Of course I have seen videos of practices, but I had never watched a practice before. I was struck with how utterly beautiful yoga is, and how so many students, ranging from dance majors to psychology majors to sports, arts, and entertainment management majors could come together and move as one.
So here’s a sneak peek from my hour-long shoot. Stay tuned for more to come!

The yoga victorious

Photo Jan 23, 10 40 56 PM

Just after Christmas, I started a core workout program. Mainly, I just wanted to exercise my core muscles more and tone everything up (bathing suit season is coming soon!), but I also wanted to challenge myself, to work toward a goal.

The workouts are great for feeling the burn, as all workouts should be. I really feel like I’m getting somewhere. But I really felt like I was getting somewhere when the new school semester started and I was back to my yoga class, finally mastering crow pose and even some balancing poses I previously hadn’t been able to hold before. I attribute it to my workouts, of course (pictures of those will be up soon, I assure you).
But sometimes, small victories happen that mean just as much as staying up in crow pose for over 5 seconds without falling on your face.

After a workout the other day, since my mat was already out, I decided to stretch a little bit and do a sun salutation or two while I was warmed up. I’ve been trying to work on my hip flexors lately because the lack of flexibility in them was proving difficult in practice. So at the end of my practice, after a few lunges and pigeons, I sat and let my hips relax in a butterfly pose, while my hands went to my heart. And I breathed. That beautiful, end-of-practice breathing to let everything sink in and let your mind relish in the wonderful treatment you gave it, and your body, in the past minutes.

And then I realized, my calves were on the floor. My heels were pulled in as far as they could go and for the first time, my calves were on the floor. Seems pretty simple, right? Something I probably shouldn’t feel totally ecstatic for, right? But man, it felt like a milestone. I did it!

Namaste all, and may you too be victorious this week.