The 8 limbs of yoga
A complete package for self-transformation. By Michaēl Bijker
There is such a great power within each one of us! A power to create, heal and manifest. Yes, you reading this…it is all in you! It is just a matter of tapping into that power. Unfortunately, most people grow up in complete ignorance of their true power and go through life with difficulty, conflict and discontent. We grow up in a society where we learn very little about cultivating peace and wisdom within ourselves. But the good news is: yoga comes to the rescue!
At the age of 18, after a near-fatal accident, Michaēl Bijker experienced how to use his maximum mental and physical capacity through the power of yoga. This enabled him to heal himself from medical injuries doctors said he would not be able to recover from. For over a decade, he has dedicated his life to making optimal health and happiness achievable for everyone.
He is the founder of the Life Awareness Project (yogalap.com): an online learning platform with more than 100,000 students in over 170 countries. OM asked him how yoga has helped him on his life journey.
Why do you think it is necessary for people to learn yoga?
As a human being you have the power to shape your life in a beautiful way; the power to make choices that are in line with what really feels right for you and to manifest a life full of abundance and satisfaction. It is actually very simple, but you have to apply the right methods. I believe there will come a time when people are going to discover this on a large scale, and this is going to make a big difference in how we interact with each other and how our world is going to be.
What is the true power of yoga?
Yoga is so much more than just stretching and strengthening the body, and relaxing the mind. Yoga helps us to become the best version of ourselves and awaken our full potential. Many people have experienced the wonderful benefits of yoga in terms of physical and mental health, however, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Yoga techniques are the wonderful ancient tools to optimise one’s mind and body to live in a healthy and blissful way. There is a laid out path for this: the eight limbs of yoga. These are eight parts to liberate your mind and become not only physically strong and healthy, but also enlighten your spirit and make you blissful and free. This complete yoga programme is called Raja Yoga.
These are the eight limbs (steps) of yoga:
1 & 2: Yama & Niyama
Right ways of living and developing pure and clean habitual ways of living. How can you be happy and healthy if you have a bad diet? When you crave too much and are stealing and lying? It is fundamental to live in a pure, honest and truthful way.
3. Yoga Asana
Think of yogic postures like downward dog or tree pose. Many people nowadays think that yoga is all about the postures to become strong and flexible. While this is definitely a very important part of yoga, it is only a preparation for the other parts (limbs) of yoga. Through yoga asanas one makes the body strong and flexible and develops willpower and focus. It also prepares the nervous and energetic system for the later parts of yoga. Your body is the vessel for your spirit and should be in optimum condition.
This refers to the ability to bring your awareness inward to feel and experience the flows of energy like thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations. When we learn to really feel the body, the breath and energy that makes us alive, we can start to control this energy to harmonise and balance it.
This step contains learning to control these flows of energy through breathing techniques. Breathing is connected with your whole nervous system and mind. When you are stressed or nervous, your breathing pattern will be more shallow and fast. When you are calm and relaxed, your breathing will be slow and deep. The way your mental state is greatly affects your breathing. This works in both ways. Through breathing in certain ways, you can control your energetic system. For example: when you are stressed and feel tensed, you can actively calm and relax your breathing which will greatly help to relax the mind. By calming, energising and harmonising the mind, it is much easier to go into the next steps of yoga.
Dharana teaches us to concentrate the mind on one point with effort. This could be focusing on the breath, on a mantra or on a mental visualisation. This helps to centre and to still the fluctuations of the mind so that one can go into a state of meditation.
Once the mind is focused, one can let go of effort to concentrate. One can just purely ‘be’ in a state of meditation, which is referred to as Dhyana. This is a state of complete inner stillness and peace. When one can be in that state of mind for some time one will go into a state of Samadhi.
Whilst this state cannot be expressed in words, one could describe it as a state of pure bliss. A state in which one experiences the unity of this creative universe and the unity of god/life.
Which steps should you focus on if you have limited time to practice?
Pranayama and meditation have been scientifically proven to help treat a great variety of mental and physical ailments like depression, insomnia, healing trauma, conquering addiction, migraines, asthma, and the list can go on and on. Together with practicing some simple yogic postures and stretches, a practice of 20 minutes a day can be completely life changing. I have created a seven-day programme in which you can learn to do this (the seven-day essentials course on yogalap.com) The course has been life changing for thousands of people already and is offered for free for those who cannot afford it. It’s a great place to begin to live a more healthy, empowered and joyful life!