Astanga or the eight limbs of yoga are described in chapter two and are a means to clarify our relationship with others and ourselves. As an introduction, here are some thoughts from a talk by the late Peter Hersnack (a well known yoga teacher with amazing ideas about yoga teachings making them accessible and honouring the original essence; my own teachers spent time with Peter so if you come to my classes or lessons you are already benefitting from his experience):
The practice of yoga encourages us to be a little better than we were before through making an effort and practising patience. Yoga practices help change our social attitudes and lifestyle, how we interact with people, our attitude to our environment and how we deal with problems. Our direct experience is through the practice of asana and pranayama, the energy ripples out from our embodied practice.
Peter taught that yoga is to be free in relationship and to have freedom within relationship. Chapter two describes our way of being in the world. The first half of chapter explains how our way of seeing the world and seeing ourselves creates confused relationships at every level of our life. The second half of chapter two and beginning of the 3rd chapter, present means for reducing our confusion and moving towards relationships based on freedom. The eight limbs of yoga, astanga, are the means for clearly seeing relationships and the interacting parts of a particular relationship.
The eight limbs:
- Yama – relationship with another
- Niyama – relationship with ourselves
- Asana – relationship with our body
- Pranayama – relationship with our breath
- Pratyahara – relationship with our senses
- Dharana – relationship with our mind, contemplation
- Dhyana – relationship with concept/idea/object of contemplation
- Samadi – something beyond the relationship, between our being and perception
By living in relationship and being aware of how others see us, it is harder to deceive ourselves; we can notice the quality and clarity of our communication and or lack of it. If we can be more aware of how we live in the present, perhaps our future will sing with clarity and authenticity.