The 8 Limbs of YogaThe first thing to be aware of are the eight limbs of yoga as described by the ancient sage Patanjali. These eight limbs are foundational to the yogic practice and philosophy. Think of these eight limbs like petals on a flower. Each petal contributes to the whole, and the flower would not be complete if it were missing a petal. The eight limbs are:
- Yama, or abstinence. These are practices involving discipline over biological impulses and cravings.
- Niyama, or observances. Put simply, the niyamas are positive habits (do's instead of don'ts) such as self-study, restraint of mind, and purity.
- Asana, or yoga postures, which we are familiar with in the West.
- Pranayama, or breath control. Though pranayama involves the breath, it is actually about channeling the life-force, or prana. Pranayama maximizes the absorption of vital life force (prana).
- Dharana, or concentration, is the honing of our ability to focus and concentrate the mind.
- Dhyana, or contemplation, may also be translated as meditation. Dhyana is the practice of single-pointed awareness.
- Samadhi, or absorption, a state of unity in which the meditator, the object of meditation, and the meditative process become one.
Asanas - Yoga Mental Health BenefitsIn addition to enhancing flexibility and mobility, performing asanas on a regular basis can enhance our mental health in a number of different ways.
- When you focus on a yoga posture and the sensations in your body, you also hone your ability to concentrate. This increases body awareness and could even be considered useful for people struggling with conditions labeled as ADD.
- Yoga enhances blood flow throughout the body and brain, leading to enhanced cognitive ability. It can help enhance memory formation, making it easier to think more clearly. This is an important factor to consider in the aging process.
- Yoga has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety. Furthermore, consistent practice can enhance overall quality of life.
- Yoga is fantastic for helping to improve self-esteem and can help people better understand their tendencies, strengths, and limitations. By learning about the capabilities of your body, you can enhance your self-awareness and perhaps your self-compassion as well.
- Yoga can help us process trauma stored in the body. Mental health experts understand that the body stores emotional information, both positive and negative. Practicing asanas can be useful for processing through traumatic memories that are stored in the body. This can be important for acknowledging and ultimately removing these emotional barriers and stored trauma.