So here’s the post that this post is based upon.
To recap. This guy, Patanjali, suggested we live our lives according to an eight part plan.
He called this plan Yoga.
Through the years, many people have worked to turn his plan into “holy” text, and him into some kind of deity.
He was no deity. And his plan is exactly that, a plan.
In my humble opinion, it’s a pretty good plan.
By following his plan, one can find their life centered, peaceful, and relatively uncluttered by conflict, anger, or anxiety.
He’s not the first one to come up with such ideas. But he was the first to be so darned organized about it.
I realize this now because, according to Patanjali’s plan, I’ve been doing yoga since my late teens.
Back then I’d discovered religion. Not just any religion, all religion. And I worked at understanding their commonalities and strengths. It was cool.
It was also the era of books like “I’m OK and You’re OK.” Self-help books that also offered life plans for happiness and success. I read those as well.
Now that I understand the essence of what Patanjali was writing, I see him for what he was. Another self-help writer.
So, without further ado, here are the eight limbs of yoga presented in modern self-help terms, in my favorite order.
- Samādhi: This is the top of his plan. Call it self-realization or inspiration. It basically means you accept yourself as part of the great infinite universe, and allow yourself the freedom to influence your own fate. You’re in charge. I like starting here because it’s the grand culmination of everything else Patanjali suggests.
- Dhyāna: This part of yoga means meditation, or at least being thoughtful. Think about one thing. Think about many things. Think about all things. It’s OK to meditate in any way you want. The point is to be able to think, calmly, peacefully, and productively. Some people truly freak out about meditating. Don’t.
- Dhāraṇā: Concentration. This is the part that worries some people regarding meditation. That’s not what Patanjali was telling us. For this part of yoga, he’s encouraging us to focus on whatever it is that concerns us. Family? Pain in my hip? Global warming? Doesn’t matter. Whatever it is that worries you, or makes you happy, focus on that. Study it. Compare it. Don’t get possessive!
- Pratyāhāra: Did I mention not getting possessive? That’s what this one is all about. Chill. Don’t sweat it. Back off. Watch yourself watching. In the end it’s not about you. If you can’t do anything about it, then worry less. If you can, then be patient and spend your energy wisely.
- Yama: These next two items are great, because they correspond to the judeo-christian commandments. Every religion has do’s and don’ts. These are the DOs.
- Niyama: The “Ni” means no. These are the DON’Ts of yoga.
- Āsana: Here’s the exercise part which is how we in the West think of yoga. You see it’s far down on my list, but that’s not because it’s not important. It’s rather more a foundation element. And it doesn’t mean crazy dancer-like postures. You can run. You can row. You can jump or bicycle. They aren’t as efficient as traditional poses, but they are still your asanas. Own them.
- Prānāyāma: This is the ultimate foundation of all yoga. Patanjali is reminding us, that at the bottom of all things, no matter what’s bothering us or what the situation is, JUST BREATH. Isn’t that great advice?
There you have it. Ancient wisdom in modern terms. Patanjali’s 8 point plan in modern parlance.
I recommend it. I’ve been using it for decades now, and feel great!