The 8-Limbed Path of Relationships
I perceive the practice of yoga to happen both on and off the mat. Everything I practice in stillness, movement, observation, manifestation, and letting go on my rectangle of rubber, I also put into practice in my daily life – or at least that is the goal.
So it goes with the theory behind yoga. Many of you are familiar with Pantajali’s 8-Limbed Path of Yoga that includes the following:
- Yamas – ways in which we relate to the world
- Niyamas – ways in which we relate to ourselves
- Asana – the physical practice of postures
- Pranayama – the practice of controlling breath with intention and mindfulness
- Pratyahara – the withdrawing of sensory experience to allow for full observation of self
- Dharana – focus and concentration
- Dhyana – meditation practice (uninterrupted concentration)
- Samadhi – bliss state
These eight limbs enable us to grow our practice in a way that builds upon each step. As we can see, the physical practice is only one small part of how we practice yoga. It is also a way for us to prepare our bodies for everything that follows including breath control and meditation.
This also applies to the relationships we have in our lives – with others and with ourselves.
When we take the time to observe how we relate to the word through the five Yamas: non-violence, telling the truth, non-stealing, refrain from excess, and non-coveting, we are preparing ourselves for what it takes to develop meaningful relationships. It pays not to treat others with violence. My friends and family want me to be truthful with them. I want to be truthful with myself.
This leads to the practice of the Niyamas. In this limb, we find the “values” of cleanliness, happiness/contentment, the development of consistent patterns to develop heat, study of self, and the overarching belief that there is something bigger than us (spirit, God, Gaia…). The Niyamas can help us in relationships in allowing others to just be. To just be content with where things are, to know that it takes effort to maintain good relationships, to understand that there is something larger that connects all of us and that we are part of a larger fabric.
As in yoga, the Asana, or physical practice, is a small piece of the puzzle! So it goes with relationships. While it is always nice to be physically present with those we love, it is our ability to move beyond the physical that defines the depth of our most precious partnerships. I love being able to hug my friends or hold the hand of my husband, but I know that my relationships persist because we go deeper than the physical.
The next four limbs – Panayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana – for me all embody a sense of intention and mindfulness. Relationships do well when we tend to them, just like a garden requires consistent care. By remaining focused when in the presence of someone else – free of all other distraction (including your cell phone!) can bring about a state of full awareness when in connection with another. Think about those times when your friends or loved ones have truly listened to you with their whole heart. It feels incredible! By observing our behaviours within our relationships, we engage in the self-study required to understand what it takes to be our best self in conjunction with another.
Last but not least…the bliss state! Those times where you are feeling truly valued, loved, connected, and appreciated by others. These moments are precious…when we are in full alignment with who we are in the presence of a loved one. Even more so, when we can allow that person to be in full alignment in who they are with us! To me, this speaks to vulnerability and letting go of expectation. That we can be truly one with those we love…just as they are.
What do you feel about the eight limbs in relationships?
Wishing you love, light, and peace, Heather