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.