The 8 limbs – part I

We have seen that yamas and niyamas are the foundation of the yogic 8 limbed ladder to perfection.

Yes, you’ve read it right… perfection, this is the final destination of your yoga practice… maybe it’s a very very far point from where you are now and where i am now… but that is where we’ll both arrive, everybody and everything is meant to get to that point, sooner or later… yoga is a series of techniques that will help you to reach the “last stop” in a shorter time… i’m not intending 1 month or 1 year or 1 decade… i mean -if you are really lucky (or should i say if you practice with a 24/7 attitude?)- you can get to that point in this actual life… otherwise the next… or after 10 more or 100 or so… but strongly keep this in mind: You Are Bound To Succeed!

Let’s put aside the concept of perfection, useless to ponder now on the meaning of that word… back to pragmaticality, let’s enjoy the improvements on our body and mind that yoga will gift us, all the rest will come at the right time!

The next step of the ladder is represented by the asanas… they’re the physical postures, it’s the physical exercise you’re giving to your body to get strength, flexibility, resistance, health, youth, longevity, balance and efficiency of all your internal systems, all the good stuff you usually get from a physical training… with the adjunct that through yoga asanas you can get one of the best physical trainings possible ever (i hope you’re not thinking that yoga is just gentle exercise for elders, it can be that as well!!!)
Remember, this is a “modern” interpretation of asanas… being Raja Yoga (the system of Patanjali on which the 8 limbed explanation of yoga is based) focused on mental control through meditation… asanas are originally intended to give you the necessary physical strength and flexibility to sit in a sitting posture for hours without the minimum physical discomfort, the game is enough hard to be played only in the mind!

Ultimately asanas are intertwined with breathing, asanas will teach you how to breath, learning how to breath will give you deeper asanas… this is leading to the next step… pranayama!
Briefly… prana is the vital force – ayama means extension -> pranayama is something related to the extension/expansion of your vital force… sounds good isn’t it?!?
Somebody will translate it into control of the vital force, maybe using prana+yama as etymology… in my view there is nothing to discuss here… the goal of pranayama is the expansion of your vital force through the control of breathing.
Very basic exercise with very basic instructions: check now how you’re feeling in your mind and energy in your body, if you’re mind is sluggish or attentive and so on… now have a series of long and deep inhalations followed by complete exhalations, regular breathing, same length of in-breath and out-breath, for 3/4 minutes… now check again your mind and energy levels… do you notice any change? Do you want another one? Check your pulse rate… than go for a couple of minutes of breathing with the out-breath much longer than the in-breath and check again the pulse… probably a big slowing down of your hearth rate happened? Yes, definitely breathing has a big influence on our body/mind!

Have you ever noticed that if you’re angry you have a typical breathing pattern, if you’re anxious another typical breathing pattern, if you’re depressed another typical breathing pattern, if you’re agitated another typical breathing pattern, should i go on? Obviously if you’re happy you have another typical breathing pattern, if you’re running you have another typical breathing pattern, if you’re concentrated you have another typical breathing pattern… the most important of all: did you notice that when you have a smooth and regular and deep and relaxed breathing you are in a steady and relaxed state of mind, whatever you’re doing, if the breathing is regular and relaxed you are doing it in a steady and relaxed state of mind
You can verily say that your mood/mind influences your breathing… and you can verily say that your breathing influences your mood/mind, it’s a mathematical equation… so if you exercise yourself to be able to sustain a smooth and deep breathing undepending by any external circumstance (this happens constantly in your yoga asana practice… are you upside down? is your head in between your shin bones? are your feet touching your head in an extreme backbend? are you completely twisted so that you face right but see left? in any possible extreme or less extreme pose there’s the same link… regular and constant and smooth breathing indicating the same qualities in your mind!) you are fulfilling one of the aspects of the pranayama practice and moving straight to the next step… pratyahara!