8 Steps to Freedom

The Eight Fold path we are practicing every day

Like many eastern timeless philosophies for living, pathways were developed by the ancients to map the way for seekers heading for the answers to their biggest questions.

A pathway toward ‘enlightenment’ was the most revered course a person could take in their life and these days these maps are as relevant in a modern world as they were then.

In a busy, stimulated world where we are getting more and more separated from nature, where convenience and technology can have us sleepwalking through our day, it is easy to become separated from our hearts and Yoga is like the map keeping us close to our true nature.

Its a map we can use when we look more deeply into the effects of our yoga practise… is it reducing our stress? Is it opening our minds and allowing us to become more aware of our actions? Is it helping us to understand our emotions such as jealousy, anger, fear and hatred?

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There are four traditional schools of Yoga. Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga. They describe various approaches to the practise of yoga and while a yogi or yogini may focus more on one path at different times, they are like four threads that form the larger tapestry of a balanced yoga practise.

The path of practise we are most familiar with here in the west is the path of Raja Yoga, also known as Astanga Yoga (not the modern set series developed by Sri K Pattabhi Jois), the Eight Steps of Yoga. 

It is the path of self-discipline and practice and is often referred to as “classical yoga” as it emphasises meditation, while encompassing the whole of Yoga. 

The steps directly deal with encountering and transcending thoughts of the mind to a clearer, free and awakened state.

The Yoga Sutras, a collection of texts written by a Patanjali drawn from philosophers of centuries of study and practice of yoga, outlines an eight-limbed, step-by-step path for purifying the body and mind. 

Its eventual desired result is to help practitioners cultivate a steady mind, leading to calm bliss. Our most pure and natural state of being.

The Eight Steps or Eight Limbs are known as:

1. Yama - Self-control

2. Niyama - Discipline

3. Asana - Postures and exercises that firmly root the body to the earth

4. Pranayama - Control of life force through the awareness of breathing

5. Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses from the external world

6. Dharana - Holding of awareness in concentration

7. Dhyana - Moving into quietness, meditation

8. Samadhi - Absorption into higher realms of consciousness, bliss.

These steps are what we move through everytime you practise, perhaps not in that order but you go through the stages as you land on your mat, move your body with your breath and begin to quieten down from the busyness of life.

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