Many mothers have never heard of the 8 limbs of yoga. In fact, usually when we speak about yoga we imagine going to a yoga studio, gym class or retreat and doing some sort of physical practice. In reality yoga encompasses so much more than doing some poses on a yoga mat. I practiced yoga for many years just focusing on the physical and mental benefits. It wasn’t until I did my yoga teacher training that I learned about the 8 limbs of yoga. I realized that doing yoga wasn’t just about me on my mat, but it was me in my life – all around me, guiding me in the decisions I was making and how I was choosing to live.
So, what are the 8 limbs of yoga and how can they help us become mindful mamas?
Many many years ago (approximately 2000 years) an enlightened sage, named Pantanjali, wrote an ancient Indian text called The Yoga Sutras. This book is made up of 196 aphorisms (observations and general truths) speaking about all the different aspects of human life – social disciplines, codes of conduct and the journey inwards to ourselves. It is in this book where he then outlines the 8 limbs of yoga and how to use them to discover the Divine within us and live our life with purpose and authenticity.
The journey into become a parent and a mother is one of the most magical and challenging moments in our lives.
Throughout pregnancy and postpartum we shift and change on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. This experience changes us, which can be scary at times, but ultimately this evolution brings us closer to who we truly are (just like this path of yoga).
This 8-limbed path can help mothers transition into this world of being a parent by helping you cope with the drastic changes of motherhood but also by establishing a deeper connection to yourself, your partner and your child(ren).
We can all agree that becoming a mother gives you a new sense of purpose – one that fills your heart and soul with more love and joy than you have ever known. This new life purpose can be challenging and scary but the 8 limbs can help to reveal your true authentic self as a mother.
Some of the limbs you might be familiar with such as yoga poses (asana) or mediation (dhyana). Others you might have heard of but never thought of connecting them to your yoga practice and if you haven’t heard of any of these that is completely ok too!!
Here are the 8 Limbs and their definitions:
1. Yamas – 5 ethical rules or universal vows for every day life.
Ahimsa – Practicing non-violence
Satya – Truthfulness
Asteya – Non stealing
Bramacarya – Containment of desire
Aparigraha – Non possessivness
2. Niyamas – 5 personal observances/behaviors that encourage self-discipline and inner strength.
Sauca – Cleanliness
Santosa – Contentment
Tapas – Motivation, commitment and dedication
Svadhyaya – Self-study
Isvara Pranidhana – Surrender
3. Asanas – Physical yoga practice
4. Pranayama – Yogic breathing exercises
5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal from the senses
6. Dharana – Concentration
7. Dhyana – Mediation
8. Samadhi – Bliss, Enlightenment
With my own experience as a mama I really struggled (and still do) with the transition into my new found purpose as a mother. I was full of self doubt, fear and afraid to let go of the person I was to become the person I truly am as a mom. Getting to my yoga mat was literally impossible the first few months, but I gradually began to practice these other limbs – which helped me create a loving and supportive space for myself and my family to grow along this journey.
Over the next few weeks we will be exploring each of the 8 Limbs more in depth and how you can incorporate them into your life – both on and off the mat – to help you along your motherhood journey.