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Yoga and Mindfulness

Why Yoga Has Eight Limbs

Article by: Bhairav Shankar

Saying Yoga has eight limbs, evokes to my mind the image of the goddess Durga. As she strikes the demon and her lion feeds on the buffalo body that the demon turned into, I recall her eight hands in glorious victorious splendour. However, for one who has just won a huge victory over evil, her face doesn’t display anger, hatred or even joy. She looks serene almost as if her action doesn’t affect her.

The first time I noticed this about Hindu gods and goddesses is when Tyler Durden, in the movie Fight Club, comments on the inflight safety manual, and notes how the characters on the pamphlet look calm and serene. He says, “Emergency water landing, 600 miles an hour: blank faces, calm as Hindu cows”.

There is a reason for it though, the art of sculpting gods is enshrined in the Shilpa Shastra translated literally as the Science of Sculpturing. However disconnected artists across the length and breadth of India maybe, the expression they portray on the face of gods is always one of serenity. This carried forward in other faiths that stemmed from India such as Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. Whereby even warrior gods, or gods of war, were depicted as ones who’re serene.

If one views Vedic traditions of gods not as immortal beings but as subjects of the immortal conscience and truths, then a Hindu god is simply the epitome of what one must strive to be. Hence, the state in which the gods are portrayed are ones we aim to be in as well. This state is known as Samadhi.

A state where the subconscious and the conscious are united. In this state one isn’t meditating or being mindful, they are the embodiment of mindfulness, and every action that they do is a meditation.

Patanjali, the creator of the Yogasutras, didn’t view the states that were depicted on the diety as unattainable, through practice and experimentation he found the path to this divine state. This state requires mastery of eight things, you must be as comfortable with them as you are with your limbs. Hence the name Ashta (eight) Anga (limbs) Yoga. The word Yoga comes from the Yuj, which means to bind.* Hence, the path to the ultimate state is the union of the eight limbs, Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranyama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

One must realise these aren’t steps, that one needs to do one after another. The purpose of the word Anga indicates that they need to occur in parallel. Just as you don’t work on your right arm before your left, to find your divinity, you need to work on all of them at the same time.

This is why when you are doing your downward dog, the instructor asks you to keep breathing. It sounds innocuous at first, why would you stop breathing? However, what the instructor is saying is that while you’re in Asana (pose) you don’t stop your Pranayama (breathing) and in fact, it needs to be in your Dharana (focus) so that you don’t lose your Dhyana (mindfulness).

This is why some regard Yoga not as a form of exercise but as a lifestyle. It permeates into everything we do and its influence is found in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the time you wake up and sleep in the morning down to the type of beverage you have.

This is why Yoga begins with Yama and Niyama the dos and don’ts of Yoga. It’s the external influences that affect our mind and body. It asks you to start by abstaining from sexual proclivity, falsehoods and being bound by your possessions and instead invites into your life discipline, curiosity of divinity and mindfulness in every action we do.

Patanjali starts here not because they are not important, but because we are a product of our environment as much as we’re a product of our own inner divinity. He calls you to first make your surroundings compatible with the journey you’re about to take because once you’re done with that, the work on yourself can begin in earnest. Think of it like this, imagine you’re in an unhealthy relationship with food and it’s affecting your health. Before you can get on the right course you need to first clear out your cupboards from all the sugary, salty treats, otherwise, whenever the going gets tough, you’ll quickly fall back on unhealthy habits thereby nullifying any positive steps you take.

The next limbs of Yoga are AsanaPranayama and Pratyahara, physical actions that lead us to a meditative state. Most of us view Yoga as Asana or poses, such as downward dog, forward bend and child’s pose. While Asana gets a lot of publicity from the fact that it’s an outwardly evident activity, it hides the clear truths, that the body is simply the vehicle for the conscious mind to connect with the subconscious mind which is why Pranayama is always the action that has to happen in every Yoga class you attend.

Pranayama or breathing is a step more important than Asana for a reason. Breathing is one of the only activities that we as humans do that is both voluntary as well as involuntary. When you breathe consciously you’re overriding the automated functions of your Autonomic Nervous System, which is your subconscious mind. This is why Asana and Pranayama lead us to pratyahara, the withdrawal of our senses and movement.

What does this mean? It’s what your instructor is alluding to when he says ‘breathe through the pain’. What he means to say is that as you breathe, withdraw from the senses you feel and move beyond your body. Move away from sensations and turbulences, and connect with yourself.

This is when Patanjali introduces the next three limbs, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. To say Dharana is focus, doesn’t portray the complete story. Dharana is single-pointedness, the ability to stay in a moment for a long period. it’s when your whole body and mind are affixed to a single entity or goal. However, in Yoga, it is the ability to stay within the state that pratyahara has lead you to.

However, Patanjali doesn’t stop there, he says one last ingredient that you need before the ultimate is to know thyself, through an act called Dhyana. Dhyana or contemplation is to use the knowledge of pratyahara and Dharana to go deep into ourselves and find who YOU are, the real YOU, beyond your ego, your desires, your belongings, your social circle and your fears — the real YOU.

To strengthen these limbs is to strengthen the ultimate limb Samadhi the state of complete oneness. Where YOU are no longer your body or mind but are a deep-rooted conduit to the divine beyond the universe and time. Patanjali says, this divinity already exists within you, as these limbs are ever-present since the time of our birth, and it’s up to us to exercise and strengthen them.

However, while this is easy to read and maybe even understand, it’s hard to actualise. We’re so used to seeing Yoga as an asana based exercise, this is mainly because things that involve bodily movement can be seen and measured. A trained teacher can help you make the stretch more invigorating and help you open your body up, but they won’t be able to make the same impact with any of the other Angas.

That’s where products like Dhyana come in. Dhyana uses HRV to track aspects of our Yoga such as breathing (pranayama), relaxation (Pratyahara), focus (Dharana) and its content which is built upon some of the most introspective and searching forms of meditation help us look inward (Dhyana) and find our true self.

Of course, dhyana requires no investment at all to get started, you can download the free app, and start measuring how well you’re breathing, relaxing and focussing as well as have access to the unlimited number of meditations within the application. The app uses the built-in camera to start measuring your HRV non-invasively.

This world Yoga day, let’s remember the true purpose of Yoga, not only as a fun activity *but also as the potential path to the discovery of divinity within you.

Namaste!

Why Yoga Has Eight Limbs

Article by: Bhairav Shankar

Saying Yoga has eight limbs, evokes to my mind the image of the goddess Durga. As she strikes the demon and her lion feeds on the buffalo body that the demon turned into, I recall her eight hands in glorious victorious splendour. However, for one who has just won a huge victory over evil, her face doesn’t display anger, hatred or even joy. She looks serene almost as if her action doesn’t affect her.

The first time I noticed this about Hindu gods and goddesses is when Tyler Durden, in the movie Fight Club, comments on the inflight safety manual, and notes how the characters on the pamphlet look calm and serene. He says, “Emergency water landing, 600 miles an hour: blank faces, calm as Hindu cows”.

There is a reason for it though, the art of sculpting gods is enshrined in the Shilpa Shastra translated literally as the Science of Sculpturing. However disconnected artists across the length and breadth of India maybe, the expression they portray on the face of gods is always one of serenity. This carried forward in other faiths that stemmed from India such as Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. Whereby even warrior gods, or gods of war, were depicted as ones who’re serene.

If one views Vedic traditions of gods not as immortal beings but as subjects of the immortal conscience and truths, then a Hindu god is simply the epitome of what one must strive to be. Hence, the state in which the gods are portrayed are ones we aim to be in as well. This state is known as Samadhi.

A state where the subconscious and the conscious are united. In this state one isn’t meditating or being mindful, they are the embodiment of mindfulness, and every action that they do is a meditation.

Patanjali, the creator of the Yogasutras, didn’t view the states that were depicted on the diety as unattainable, through practice and experimentation he found the path to this divine state. This state requires mastery of eight things, you must be as comfortable with them as you are with your limbs. Hence the name Ashta (eight) Anga (limbs) Yoga. The word Yoga comes from the Yuj, which means to bind.* Hence, the path to the ultimate state is the union of the eight limbs, Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranyama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

One must realise these aren’t steps, that one needs to do one after another. The purpose of the word Anga indicates that they need to occur in parallel. Just as you don’t work on your right arm before your left, to find your divinity, you need to work on all of them at the same time.

This is why when you are doing your downward dog, the instructor asks you to keep breathing. It sounds innocuous at first, why would you stop breathing? However, what the instructor is saying is that while you’re in Asana (pose) you don’t stop your Pranayama (breathing) and in fact, it needs to be in your Dharana (focus) so that you don’t lose your Dhyana (mindfulness).

This is why some regard Yoga not as a form of exercise but as a lifestyle. It permeates into everything we do and its influence is found in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the time you wake up and sleep in the morning down to the type of beverage you have.

This is why Yoga begins with Yama and Niyama the dos and don’ts of Yoga. It’s the external influences that affect our mind and body. It asks you to start by abstaining from sexual proclivity, falsehoods and being bound by your possessions and instead invites into your life discipline, curiosity of divinity and mindfulness in every action we do.

Patanjali starts here not because they are not important, but because we are a product of our environment as much as we’re a product of our own inner divinity. He calls you to first make your surroundings compatible with the journey you’re about to take because once you’re done with that, the work on yourself can begin in earnest. Think of it like this, imagine you’re in an unhealthy relationship with food and it’s affecting your health. Before you can get on the right course you need to first clear out your cupboards from all the sugary, salty treats, otherwise, whenever the going gets tough, you’ll quickly fall back on unhealthy habits thereby nullifying any positive steps you take.

The next limbs of Yoga are AsanaPranayama and Pratyahara, physical actions that lead us to a meditative state. Most of us view Yoga as Asana or poses, such as downward dog, forward bend and child’s pose. While Asana gets a lot of publicity from the fact that it’s an outwardly evident activity, it hides the clear truths, that the body is simply the vehicle for the conscious mind to connect with the subconscious mind which is why Pranayama is always the action that has to happen in every Yoga class you attend.

Pranayama or breathing is a step more important than Asana for a reason. Breathing is one of the only activities that we as humans do that is both voluntary as well as involuntary. When you breathe consciously you’re overriding the automated functions of your Autonomic Nervous System, which is your subconscious mind. This is why Asana and Pranayama lead us to pratyahara, the withdrawal of our senses and movement.

What does this mean? It’s what your instructor is alluding to when he says ‘breathe through the pain’. What he means to say is that as you breathe, withdraw from the senses you feel and move beyond your body. Move away from sensations and turbulences, and connect with yourself.

This is when Patanjali introduces the next three limbs, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. To say Dharana is focus, doesn’t portray the complete story. Dharana is single-pointedness, the ability to stay in a moment for a long period. it’s when your whole body and mind are affixed to a single entity or goal. However, in Yoga, it is the ability to stay within the state that pratyahara has lead you to.

However, Patanjali doesn’t stop there, he says one last ingredient that you need before the ultimate is to know thyself, through an act called Dhyana. Dhyana or contemplation is to use the knowledge of pratyahara and Dharana to go deep into ourselves and find who YOU are, the real YOU, beyond your ego, your desires, your belongings, your social circle and your fears — the real YOU.

To strengthen these limbs is to strengthen the ultimate limb Samadhi the state of complete oneness. Where YOU are no longer your body or mind but are a deep-rooted conduit to the divine beyond the universe and time. Patanjali says, this divinity already exists within you, as these limbs are ever-present since the time of our birth, and it’s up to us to exercise and strengthen them.

However, while this is easy to read and maybe even understand, it’s hard to actualise. We’re so used to seeing Yoga as an asana based exercise, this is mainly because things that involve bodily movement can be seen and measured. A trained teacher can help you make the stretch more invigorating and help you open your body up, but they won’t be able to make the same impact with any of the other Angas.

That’s where products like Dhyana come in. Dhyana uses HRV to track aspects of our Yoga such as breathing (pranayama), relaxation (Pratyahara), focus (Dharana) and its content which is built upon some of the most introspective and searching forms of meditation help us look inward (Dhyana) and find our true self.

Of course, dhyana requires no investment at all to get started, you can download the free app, and start measuring how well you’re breathing, relaxing and focussing as well as have access to the unlimited number of meditations within the application. The app uses the built-in camera to start measuring your HRV non-invasively.

This world Yoga day, let’s remember the true purpose of Yoga, not only as a fun activity *but also as the potential path to the discovery of divinity within you.

Namaste!

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Connect with us:

Dhyana is made in India by Avantari
+91 9346 2056 75 | support@smartdhyana.com



Accepted payment methods:

Cards

Paypal

Dhyana is made in India by Avantari
+91 9346 2056 75 | support@smartdhyana.com



Accepted payment methods:

Cards

Paypal

Connect with us:

Dhyana is made in India by Avantari
+91 9346 2056 75 | support@smartdhyana.com