The Inner Path: 8 Limbs of Yoga
“Over 2000 years ago, the Indian sage Patanjali defined eight components, or “limbs” as the blueprint for the yoga journey. This approach to yoga, called Raja yoga, condensed the Indian yogic tradition into an open-ended system for cultivating ethical character, training the mind and realising the Self.”
So begins Zamir Dhanji’s introduction to "The Inner Path". In collaboration with HOA, this intensive syllabus spanning 8 days (January 12th - 19th) will guide you to experience yoga as more than just a physical exercise or an esoteric philosophy, but an inner science to master the body and mind, awaken spiritual potential and fulfil your higher purpose.
Through the 8 limbs of yoga, you will find a set of prescriptions for a morally disciplined and purposeful life. Ashtanga, or the 8 limbs of yoga are defined by Patanjali as Yama (abstinences), Niyama (observances), Asana (yoga postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption). Ahead of this much anticipated syllabus, we briefly summarise the main points of the 8 limbs below:
Yamas are ethical rules and can be thought of as moral imperatives (the "don'ts"). The five Yamas listed by Patanjali in Yoga Sutra 2.30 are:
Ahimsa (अहिंसा): non-violence, non-harming other living beings
Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood
Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing
Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint
Aparigraha (अपरिग्रह): non-avarice, non-possessiveness
The second component of the 8 limbs is Niyama, which prescribes virtuous habits and observances. They are defined as such:
Shaucha (शौच): purity, clarity of mind, speech and body
Santosha (संतोष): contentment, acceptance of others, acceptance of one's circumstances as they are in order to get past or change them, optimism for self
Tapas (तपस्): persistence, perseverance, austerity, asceticism, self-discipline
Svadhyaya (स्वाध्याय): study of Vedas, study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self's thoughts, speech and actions
Ishvarapranidhana (ईश्वरप्रणिधान): contemplation of the the Divine and the True Self
Asana is defined as a posture that one can hold for a period of time, staying relaxed, steady, comfortable and motionless. Any posture that causes pain or restlessness is not a yogic posture. Secondary texts that discuss Patanjali's sutra state that one requirement of correct posture for sitting meditation is to keep chest, neck and head erect, in other words, to keep the spinal column vertically aligned.
A vital component in yoga is pranayama - learning how to regulate our breathing. Prana in Sanskrit means life force, but it is generally taken to mean the breath. By controlling our breath, we are able to overcome any physical or emotional discomfort that arises from our yoga practice. Observing the breath is also an efficient way to ground into the present moment when meditating.
Pratyahara is the process of drawing within one's awareness. It requires us to retract the sensory experience from external objects. However, Pratyahara is not consciously closing one's eyes to the sensory world, it is consciously closing one's mind processes to the sensory world. Pratyahara empowers us to stop being controlled by the external world, to fetch our attention to seek self-knowledge and experience the freedom innate in our inner world.
This specific limb represents a transition: of moving from outside to inside, from the outer sphere of the body to the inner sphere of the spirit.
Dharana (धारणा) means concentration, introspective focus and one-pointedness of mind. The root of the word is dhṛ (धृ), meaning "to hold, maintain, keep".
Dharana refers to holding one's mind onto a particular inner state, subject or topic of one's mind. The mind is fixed on a mantra, on witnessing the breath, or an object, concept or idea to be meditated upon.
Dhyana (ध्यान) literally means "contemplation, reflection" and "profound, abstract meditation". Dhyana is integrally related to Dharana, one leads to other. Dhyana is contemplating, reflecting on whatever Dharana has focused on, resembling uninterrupted train of thought, current of cognition, or flow of awareness. Dhyana is distinct from Dharana in that the meditator becomes actively engaged with its focus. Adi Shankara, in his commentary on Yoga Sutras, distinguishes Dhyana from Dharana, by explaining Dhyana as the yoga state when there is only the "stream of continuous thought about the object, uninterrupted by other thoughts of different kinds for the same object.”
Samadhi is oneness with the subject of meditation. There is no distinction between the yogi, the act of meditation and the subject of meditation. Samadhi is that spiritual state when one's mind is so absorbed in whatever it is contemplating on, that the mind loses the sense of its own identity. The thinker, the thought process and the thought fuse with the subject of thought. There is only oneness, Samadhi.
Based upon the framework of the 8 limbs of yoga, "The Inner Path" takes a unique approach for integrating them into your life. In this 8-day syllabus we will integrate the 8 limbs on three levels:
1. To familiarise ourselves with key concepts and vocabulary of the yoga sutras through creative contemplation
2. To apply essential principles of practice to engage our physical, mental, emotional & energy bodies
3. Through group discussion and personal healing through innovative exercises
If you are interested in a particular limb of yoga you are welcome to join and gain insight into the teachings and practices associated with it. It is highly recommended to attend DAY 1, the introductory 2.5hr session for an overview of the whole system, which is the basis of yoga philosophy and practice. This way you'll have a solid context for any other session you choose to attend. All sessions are highly experiential and include homework to explore on your own time. All that's required is a willingness to experiment within the laboratory of your body and mind.
8-day syllabus: The Inner Path by Zamir Dhanji
Day 1, January 12th, 15:00 - 17:30
The World of Yoga
We will take a 10,000 foot view of the origin of yogic science and how it evolved into practices that were designed to make it a living experience for people. This powerful introduction will not only change the way you see yoga and understand the different approaches of practice. Fundamental teachings of yoga philosophy will be introduced to provide an a foundation for the student to understand the “how and why” of yoga.
Day 2, January 13th, 19:00 - 21:00
Yogic Ethics and Living the Dharma
How we live in the world is a barometer of our practice: it’s the place where we take our yoga off the mat. Our choices and relationships also influences the experience of our meditation and spiritual growth. We will explore yogas recommendations for living in such a way that our practice and our relations with others are harmonious and clear.
Day 3, January 14th, 19:00 - 21:00
The Anatomy of Practice
Just as yoga asanas are expanded by our understanding of how different parts of the body work together. When you understand the anatomy of yoga as an inner practice and how it connects, a huge ‘aha’ moment opens the door to a whole new dimension of yoga. We will explore this anatomy of practice together.
Day 4, January 15th, 19:00 - 21:00
Gravity & Grace
On the mat is where we get to explore the connection between body, breath and mind through movement. Through asana we move the body and remove blocks to the flow of energy. You will be introduced to Donna Farhi’s seven moving principles of practice to revolutionise the way you move on the mat.
Day 5, January 16th, 19:00 - 21:00
The Art of Breath
Stabilising and refining Prana is absolutely essential to all practices of yoga. We’ll gain insight into the Art of Breath to explore the subtleties of practice, refine our energy and create a bridge between body and mind. Explore the different facets of diaphragmatic breathing with simple exercises that reveal your breath patterns and re-train how to breathe with greater naturalness.
Day 6, January 17th, 19:00 - 21:00
Mind, Senses and the Material World
The ability to reclaim and control the wandering attention of our senses is an indispensable part of yogic training. Learning to hold our minds steady without succumbing to doubts helps keep us centred in spite of challenges. We will learn a yogic process to assume the reigns of our senses, discover the 5 conditions of mind, and learn how to develop concentration.
Day 7, January 18th, 15:00 - 17:00
Entering the Stillness
In a world is filled with programs, techniques, and promises of meditation, the term has become confused by many with relaxation, stress management and visualisation. We will explore the foundations of yogic meditation and empower you with the knowledge and practices to bring this transformative limb of yoga into your life. You don’t want to miss this.
Day 8, January 19th, 15:00 - 17:00
Sadhana Session - Pack it and go!
We’re going to review and integrate some of knowledge and practices learned over the week and experience a holistic Sadhana (practice). With the support of the Inner Path Practice deck as our guide, the content from the series will remain with you as a reference throughout your yoga journey.
* "The Inner Path" cost: 2 sessions from package, drop in $56 per day or $448 for 8 days.
** Those holding a package, cancellation for "The Inner Path" should be done 3 days prior or you will be charged for late cancellation.
*** Participants who complete all 8-days will receive a complimentary first edition of "The Inner Path" Yoga Philosophy Deck.
If you feel a calling to deepen your yoga practice, book your spot for "The Inner Path" here!
Written by Izzy Liyana, content creator & writer for HOA