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The Yamas and Niyamas

For most people the practice of yoga starts on the mat. If you spend enough time there it starts to bleed into the rest of your life, where the real practice begins. We want to support your inward journey off the mat as best we can by following you home. (Not actually follow you home, of course, because that’s a little creepy and decidedly non-yogic.) We want to be accessible to you in more ways than just during your physical practice. If this is your first time visiting, welcome to Ekam off the Mat. 

At Ekam, we tend to focus on the Asana, or physical portion of the 8 limbs of yoga. We want to help guide you towards discovery of the other 7 limbs, a lot of that has to be something you do on your own. We want slowly give you the tools and the support you need to deepen your practice until the presence or absence of the mat has no bearing on the practice. So lets briefly chat about the limbs. We will focus on each limb in more depth in later blog posts. 

 Yamas- The moral code we live by 

  • Ahimsa- nonviolence to self and others 
  • Satya- truthfulness 
  • Asteya- non stealing 
  • Brahmacharya- non-excess 
  • Aparighraha- non-possessiveness

 Niyamas- Rules of personal behavior 

  • Saucha- purity 
  • Santosha- contentment 
  • Tapas- self-discipline 
  • Svadhyaya- self-study/ inner exploration 
  • Ishvara pranidhana- surrender 

Asana- Refers to yoga postures. But in Patanjali’s initial practice, it referred to mastering the body to sit still for meditation. The practice of yoga asanas came about eight centuries later, which helped disciples ready their bodies for meditation. If you translate the word asana literally it means ‘to find a better seat’  

Pranayama-Generally translated as breath control, this fourth limb consists of techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions.

These first four limbs of Patanjali's Ashtanga yoga concentrate on refining our personalities, gaining mastery over the body, and developing an energetic awareness of ourselves, all of which prepares us for the second half of this journey, which deals with the senses, the mind, and attaining a higher state of consciousness.

Pratyahara- means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. Keenly aware of, yet cultivating a detachment from, our senses, we direct our attention internally. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. 

Dharana- As each stage prepares us for the next, the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana, or concentration. Having relieved ourselves of outside distractions, we can now deal with the distractions of the mind itself.  In the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, we learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object: a specific energetic center in the body, an image of a deity, or the silent repetition of a sound.

Dhyana-Meditation or contemplation, the seventh stage of ashtanga, is the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Although concentration and meditation may appear to be one and the same, a fine line of distinction exists between these two stages. Where dharana practices one-pointed attention, dhyana is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. At this stage, the mind has been quieted, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all.

Samadhi- Essentially, this is referring to transcendence.  A continued state of nirvana. 

Okay ya’ll, this probably felt like a lot… and it is. Which is why we started this blog, so that we may better unpack all the goodies that come with the asana. This blog won’t always be so rooted in yogic traditions, we will also use it as a source of home practice ideas, yummy recipes, and a chance to get to know your teachers off the mat.