Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ashtanga Butterfly

There are eight limbs of yoga according to the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali (Ashtanga means eight limbs.). I have represented the eight limbs of yoga with a butterfly image.

Ashtanga Yoga – Eight Limbs of Yoga

First limb – Yama – Moral discipline that regulates our survival instincts

Second limb – Niyama – Self-restraint that regulates our personal lives

Third limb – Asana – Posture that regulates physiology

Fourth limb – Pranayama – Breath control that regulates subtle energy

Fifth limb – Pratyahara – Sense-withdrawal, looking inward

Sixth limb – Dharana – One-pointed concentration

Seventh limb – Dhyana – Meditation, consciousness expanded

Eighth limb – Samadhi – Ecstasy, bliss

Just as the limbs on the butterfly connect into the same body (yoga), all eight limbs of yoga affect a person simultaneously. You can’t really disconnect a person from their natural aspects or limbs. So yoga is operating in our lives whether we’re aware of it or not.

You’ll notice that I gave Ashtanga Butterfly strong legs, and feet connected to the ground. The reason being that a newly discovered spiritual practice can leave someone ungrounded, so remember your feet. Remembering your actual feet is important in practice, but also the metaphorical feet, like relationships, personal history, home environment, and finances--all the things that connect you to a healthy, every-day life. There was a time when instead of connecting me healthfully to myself, my yoga practice served as a means of escape. When I got hooked by yoga it was because it was connecting me with bliss, the likes of which I had not encountered before. And, all I wanted was MORE! I approached my yoga practice like an addict wanting a fix. It gave me a way to escape painful feelings. These days I find myself doing things to ensure a more balanced practice and life. One thing I am consciously doing is remembering my history, because that is what brought me to this moment in life where I can appreciate connection and bliss, and sadness and endings.

I also gave Ashtanga Butterfly antennae projecting upward. This is in honor of the search for the unknown, finding connection, and learning to go deeper into oneself. Part of the practice of yoga for me is listening deeply, aiming to live closer to my truth.

Both aspects are important: connecting to the individual life that brought us here to this moment (symbolized by the feet), as well as listening deeply and being available to give definition to something new in oneself (symbolized in my drawing by butterfly antennae). The gatekeeper for this possibility is the mind, which can be seduced either toward earthly pleasures or toward heavenly bliss. The mind’s job is to direct our energies towards balance. What this balance looks like is my feet are on the earth and I am open to and watching intently the great mystery of life’s journey.


Jennifer said...

This is really lovely; beautiful and inspiring.

kathleen m said...

Thanks for explaining the 8 limbs of yoga. It helps when it becomes demystified, and it is refreshing to see the holistic concept of yoga, not just descriptions of the physical yoga practices.

Amy Jewell said...

I love this butterfly post. It is good to remember that YOGA is a lot more than just asanas.

Tanja said...

I love the idea of the butterfly, thank you so much for posting this.

Maria @dailydownwarddog said...

I just recently started YTT and this butterfly image and the definitions are outstanding! Thanks for helping to bring some of the mystifying yoga terms down to a "Fun" level!

Lori Lucas E-RYT RPYT said...

That is so sweet!! I like your blog! I too am a yoga teacher. I live in Vancouver Canada.
That butterfly drawing of the 8 limbs is just so beautiful.
Namaste :)