Raja yoga, also knows as Ashtanga yoga, is known to have eight limbs which is also known as the “eight-fold path”. “Ashtanga” literally means ashta=eight and anga=limb.
The eight limbs are identified and described below:
Yamas – our personal ethical standards and how we carry ourselves. These are basically practices that are universal and can be seen in various religious scripts. Combined, these five yamas are very powerful indeed in that they make for a very enlightened soul. The five yamas include:
- Ahimsa – meaning to not be violent and non-harming towards ourselves and to others.
- Satya – meaning to be truthful. To be true to oneself in our actions and reactions
- Asteya – non-stealing. It is interesting to note that the non-stealing aspect can be as worldly as no stealing money, jewellery, objects, or as deep as not stealing precious time from oneself or from others
- Brahmacharya – unity with oneself and the mind
- Aparigraha – generosity, meaning to not be greedy or possessive or attached. It perhaps a form of letting go, and not holding on to things, people, or thoughts.
Niyamas – are internal practices or observances, self-discipline. They can also be considered contracts that one has with the self.
- Saucha – meaning cleanliness and purity. Much deeper than having a shower every day. It can also mean having a clean mind free of gossip, negative thoughts and harmful thoughts to oneself or others and having clean money, such as hard earnings, not gambled winnings.
- Samtosa – meaning contentment, being happy and satisfied in what we have and what is available to us and making the best of it.
- Tapas – meaning discipline, austerity, being “strict” with oneself in one’s expectations of the self so one can maintain the Yamas and Niyamas.
- Svadhyaya – meaning study of oneself, to know oneself, to be self-aware, to know where our own boundaries are, and how far we can push them.
- Isvara pranidhana – meaning to surrender to God, to acknowledge and realise the higher power that is forever in control and in-charge, that there is someone, an energy, God, light, universe that is looking after is and to which we all belong. Perhaps, we are in essence God, as is everything around and within us.
Asana – practice of yoga. By practicing yoga, we develop discipline, habits, concentration, and eventually meditation where we are able to truly reflect upon ourselves, and find ourselves.
Pranayama – meaning breathing. Pranayama as the fourth limb of yoga reminds us that breathing is life. As we breath in, we inhale love and as we breath out we exhale everything that we do not need. It is continuous cycle of receiving and letting go.
Pratyahara – meaning sensory transcendence. This means to have the bigger picture – that everything around us is not all. There is much more that is awaiting our awareness. It is in this limb that we learn to withdraw from the sense, from the world, where we detach and look within – what is serving us, and what isn’t.
Dharana – meaning concentration. This means now we finally focus. We have prepared ourselves through our daily practices of yama, niyama, asana, and breathing to finally being able to truly concentrate on a single object e.g. a sound, or a ray of light.
Dhayana – meaning meditation. Meditation is a concentration that is uninterrupted. This is where we are aware and we are receiving few to no thoughts in our mind. We just “are”, aware in our stillness and being.
Samadhi – meaning ecstasy. This is where realisation of the divine, the higher being, the higher power, the universe takes place. This is where we realise that we are ONE with the universe and are enlightened in peace.