The Eightfold Path of Yoga-Part 2: Limbs Three And Four | Asanas And Pranayamas

The Context of Your Reality In Your Body And With Your Breath

You live in your body.

Every experience that you have in your day to day life will be in your body. Your body is an expression of what you eat, how you live, where you are born, your ancestry, human history and evolution, and is a historical recorder of your personal life journey.

If you consume a certain number of calories in proportion to your activity level, or have eaten wholesome versus processed foods that lack nutritional value, your body will reflect this. If you eat more calories than what is required on a daily basis for a consistent amount of time and then do not engage in physical activity that burns these calories, your body will show this. If you have been this way consistently over time, maybe your skin will then stretch to accommodate your expansion and you will then remnant skin where fats use to be if you skink to a smaller size at a later time by reducing your calories intake and/or increasing your level of activity.

If you face an injury and lose a limb, you will then have to live without that limb for the rest of your life and your body will tell the story of your lived experience.

Every experience, that you have is lived and expressed within your body, including your emotional experiences, even though emotional experiences are more subtle expressions that are easily forgotten compared to the more present and visible physical ones. You can often more clearly see the lived experience of weight loss or a boating accident than the day to day experiences of stress, joy, comfort, grief, etc. You can even more clearly see the physical manifestations of tastes and ideologies expressed through clothing or mannerisms. But most people fail to realize how the emotional experiences and thoughts that are accumulated over time in one’s life manifests themselves into physical imprints in the body.

Yoga limbs three and four, Asanas (stretching and body work) and Pranayamas (breathwork), address this reality. Together, these two limbs help to prepare and strengthen our bodies so that we come more literally and fully into ourselves without both physical and emotional restrictions. In limbs three and four, we move from a healthy relationship with ourselves in relationship to society and the external world, to a heathy relationship with our bodies where we live and exist each day.

These two limbs remind us that if we do not “work out” our experiences physically each day, we may notice that we accumulate tensions and blockages of flexibility, and experience pain that makes concentration on other aspects of life more difficult. If we do not work out our different experiences of life’s emotional and physical imprints in our body, we may find ourselves stuck in the traumas and dramas of lived experience instead of freely living in our own individual expression with enough energy to devote to our practice of attaining higher states of consciousness in order to achieve the ultimate goal of self-actualization/realization. This is why the third and forth limbs of Yoga focus on the body and breath, and why Asanas and Pranayamas are an important part of our work and practice.

Together, and separately, the third and forth limbs of Yoga’s Eightfold Path connect our mind and body as they work out the tensions and traumas of everyday life and of our lived experiences, and they prepare us to get more into ourselves for our next practices of mastery of the sense (Pratyahara), concentration (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana), and connection with our highest expression (Samadhi) on this path.

Asanas help us to have fluidity and flexibility in our bodies and to maintain the optimal functioning of our vessel; as do Pranayamas, which simultaneously open up our cells to more oxygen for optimal health while loosening tensions that restrict blood and hormone flow or the distribution of nutrients, essential molecules, and vital chemicals throughout our body into the essential organs and cells that need them.

The act of consciously moving and breathing, and the contemplation of the essential nature of their value to our existence, can take a Yoga practitioner into an elevated state of being that provides space for more higher capabilities of the mind since these two practices relax our muscles and nervous systems and make us more present and available for positive mental experiences as well increasing our ability to overcome physical and emotional challenges more quickly.

If one has developed certain triggers and neuroses from lived experience, for example, simply breathing and stretching have been proven to offer relief from these maladies since the practices invite their practitioners to come into the present moment where she/he can more fully live in the “now” and move forward toward the future instead of getting stuck in an automatic response from the past.

When we do our Asanas and Pranayamas we are, therefore, more available for learning, growth and positive expansion into more healthy future and present states. Asanasas and Pranayamas help us to move more fully into ourselves and to start doing the necessary work to make our bodies and minds vessels for higher experiences and deeper connections with our divine aspect and spirit.

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