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Yoga Bliss Gambia: Eight Limbs of Yoga - Part 3

My Magazine 2023/12
3 min
Author: Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
The Eight Limbs of Yoga are described in the philosophical scriptures of yoga (Yoga Sutra) written by Patanjali Maharishi around 400 C.E. Amongst other scripts, Patanjali wrote the 8 fold-path or the eight limbs of yoga to achieve a wholesome practice that allows the practitioner to transcend human suffering and achieve self-realisation and ultimate freedom. This way of life will enable you to bring harmony between your body, mind and spirit and achieve optimal health and well-being.

In the October and November Issues of My Magazine, I briefly described the concept of the first five limbs.

  • The first limb, Yama, outlines the guidance to social ethics, morals and adherences between you and the environment/living beings.
  • The second limb is Niyama, which entails guidance to personal observances, understanding our attitudes, discipline and responsibility.
  • The third limb, Asana, is what many of you may think of when you hear yoga. It is the different physical postures designed to give strength, stamina, flexibility and stability to the body and mind.
  • The fourth limb, Pranayama, is breath control. As our breath links our body, mind and spirit, and so by controlling the breath, you can alter your mind, and then the spirit.
  • The fifth limb, Pratyahara, is a practice of withdrawing our senses away from our thoughts and surroundings and focusing the mind inward.

We will continue with the sixth, seventh, and last limbs in this issue. These are Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi and are collectively called Sanyam, meaning 'control'. They are practised as one as they progress to the next depth of concentration.

The sixth limb, Dharana, is the practice of maintaining focus and concentration. It is the entry into meditation. Dharana requires focused concentration on a single object, internal or external. Concentration on external objects may be any object found externally, such as a candle, flower, a spiritual figure, etc, whereas internal objects may be breath, one particular thought, mantra, chakra, etc. Most of us are bombarded with thoughts and rarely focus on one point. Dharana may sound simple, but it requires practice to achieve and hold for a prolonged period of time.

To practice Dharana, sit comfortably in a calm and peaceful place. If practising external Dharana, keep your eyes open and focus on the chosen object. If you are practising internal Dharana, close your eyes and bring your focus to the mantra, chakra, etc. Without unwavering concentration, your awareness must be focused. While you practice, it is normal for thoughts to disrupt your concentration. The challenge for you is not to be disturbed by these thoughts and to maintain focus. You may initially only maintain your focus for 10 seconds or even less. But with practice, you will be able to hold your focus for longer

The seventh limb, Dhyana, extends from Dharana when total concentration is achieved. This state is the meditative state, and in the true depth of Dhyana, the practitioner cannot see it as an action of meditation practice anymore as they cannot separate themselves from it and are fully immersed.

Samadhi is the eighth limb of yoga, the pinnacle of the yoga practice. Its meaning can translate to a blissful state, liberation or enlightenment. It is considered to be a state where the individual consciousness and the universal consciousness unite, and it is in a complete absorptive meditative state where the practitioner and the meditative object merge into one. Until one can reach the state of Samadhi, the body, mind, and spirit must be conditioned through the eight limbs of yoga, also known as the 8-fold path.

The state of Samadhi and how it is precisely achieved and experienced is all said to differ from person to person. We cannot say for sure if we will achieve Samadhi in this lifetime, but the seven limbs leading up to Samadhi will surely bring you to a state where you will feel more in peace and in alignment with your body, mind and soul. The continual practice of these eight limbs is the yogic life, without expectations and without attachment, with physical and mental conditioning, understanding the oneness of the internal and external cosmos.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
Founder, Yoga Bliss Gambia and Yoga Bliss Creations
Melissa Daswani is a professional yoga teacher trained and accredited in Hatha Yoga from Rishikesh, India. She was introduced to yoga in the early adolesce by her mother who often practised yoga at their home and still continues to practice to date.
Melissa started to indulge in yoga with a keen interest in her 20’s after researching the benefits of practising yoga.
In order to expand her knowledge and practice, she initially enrolled on official training in India during 2009. Her initial stint in yoga teaching began in 2012 in Togo, followed by expanding in the Gambia from 2016. Melissa’s style of teaching incorporates the fundamental and crucial steps of yoga called Hatha yoga, which encompasses the basis of all other styles of yoga. Melissa believes that every individual has something to gain from Yoga which is not limited to mental, physical or spiritual.
Yoga is not a religion but more a spiritual exercise as well as a practice that can universally be incorporated into your daily routine. Melissa offers regular weekly classes in Fajara, the Gambia, which is open to all levels.
She also runs a weekly beach yoga class which is very refreshing and energizing.
It’s her love and dedication towards teaching which allows her the opportunity to share the essence of yoga and its benefits to people from all walks of life.
Whether you reside in the Gambia or a visitor in The Gambia, Yoga Bliss Gambia would love to welcome you to their next class.

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