The 8 Limbs of Yoga as a Spiritual Compass

A brief history of my spiritual evolvement (and stuck-ness)

When I was wee little, my mom took me to Sunday School, and I loved every minute of it. It felt good to know that I was loved unconditionally, a perfectly created human, that goodness existed every where.

The Sunday school trips didn’t last long, a few years at most.

In second grade, we moved to a new town. There was a church within walking distance and I dragged my little brother there as many times as he would let me. My parents stayed home.

I got baptized as a teenager with my boyfriend. But both relationships (with him and the church) ended as I entered college.

Over the years I’ve had an on again, off again relationship with a Sunday morning ritual.

I’ve been a seeker my whole life. New age, self-help, Christianity, Buddhism, divination tools, astrology, angel cards, yoga philosophy, texts on enlightenment … I’ve always looked to something outside of myself to define my value and worth.

Present day

For the most part, I now know what I believe. Everything I need is already present. The Divine lives in me and there is an inherent goodness that wishes to express at all costs. My ego is not my friend. My body tells the truth and allows me to feel deeply what I know to be true.

I have a solid spiritual practice and feel grounded in who I am. In some ways I still seek, but I also have a deep faith in what I know to be true — not because I read it someplace, but because I feel Truth within. I draw inspiration from the Christian and Buddhist traditions, as well as yoga philosophy and embodiment.

A spiritual compass

Attributed to Patanjali, the 8 limbs is a spiritual path to enlightenment. But put in more useful terms, it’s simply an outline of living a rich moral life.

I teach the 8 limbs as part of my class each semester at Ohio University, and at my student’s urging, I am also writing a book.

The more I uncover, the less I know. I could literally spend a lifetime studying these concepts (and I have). Of course I continue to go deeper, but the way I internalize this text and how it changes with experience and practice is a testiment to it’s value and uniqueness in helping us lead more spiritually sound lives.

In addition to writing the book, I’ll be sharing a weekly post here dedicated to the 8 limbs. I hope you’ll come along with me.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

  1. Yamas (moral restraints) … Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (moderation), Aparigraha (non-hoarding/greedlessness)
  2. Niyamas (spiritual observances) … Saucha (purity/cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study), Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion/surrender to the Divine)
  3. Asana (yoga postures)
  4. Pranayama (breath control/retention)
  5. Pratyahara (drawing the senses inward)
  6. Dharana (concentration)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (one with object of meditation, pure bliss)

Each week I will be teasing these concepts apart in an effort to understand them better and integrate them into my own life in a way that feels congruent to who I am as a person, seeker, teacher and student of life. I look forward to your comments, feedback and insights as we go along.

Thanks for reading. Did you enjoy? Please tap the 💚 to recommend it to others. Namaste …

Heather is a writer and yoga educator. Writing is part of her daily spiritual practice and she shares (almost) daily as she works on her first book. Change your perspective. Subscribe for a dose of inspiration straight to your inbox that can be read in 4 minutes or less, or receive a FREE 15 minute Rotation of Consciousness Practice to calm yourself, get out of your mind and drop into the body.