The Institute for Spirituality and Health
Exploring the connections between spirituality and health.
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Spirited Words

See below for a collection of reflections, writings, essays, poems, and other contributions that the ISH community has submitted over the years. We hope you enjoy.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to our blog, please contact Anyang Anyang <anyanganyang@ish-tmc.org>. We publish writing that relates to our mission of enhancing well-being by exploring the relationship between spirituality and health.

 

The Yogic Path to Liberation – Optimizing Spirituality AND Health to the Max

By Lex Gillan

November 22nd, 2013

Those that follow the yogic teachings of the ancients have discovered  a sweet, methodical path to self-liberation. It is laid out in eight steps (limbs) and when followed as prescribed, it can have a profound effect on one’s state of consciousness.

The first two limbs constitute what I refer to as the Ten Commandments of Yoga. The five ethical disciplines (limb one) are non-violence, truth (non-lying), non-stealing, sexual continence and non-coveting. The second limb deals with individual disciplines – purity, contentment, austerity, self-study and dedication to the Lord.

The “True Believers” of this eightfold path work first on their moral ethics (above) before beginning the third limb, purification of the body with the yoga asanas (postures). Once the yogi’s head and heart are in the “right” place, only then do they undertake the standing, stretching, twisting, bending, balancing and inversions that cultivate straight posture, suppleness of body, strength and muscle tone that help the hundred joints, nine openings and six organs all function together.

Once the body is conditioned, the yogi “takes the one seat,” cross-legged with a straight back. Formal breathing practices (pranayama, limb four) are next. There are myriad techniques of yoga breathing, all of which help quiet one’s monkey mind. 

Withdrawal of the senses (limb five) is done by closing one’s eyes and turning the awareness inward, thus focusing on the interior landscape.

An object on which to concentrate is then chosen (concentration, limb six) and this may vary from person to person, depending upon one’s faith tradition. The rule here is quite simple – listen to one’s heart, be true to oneself  and choose a technique that resonates within.

Meditation is the seventh limb. Simply stated, meditation is nothing more than remembering to stay in the present moment. Three things inevitably pull one away from the point of concentration (limb six) – sounds, sensations within one’s body and all of the myriad thoughts that pass through one’s mind. So no matter what the distractions may be, one simply returns to that focal point of awareness. Easier said than done!

And the final step (limb eight) is contemplation – the “Ah so!” state. How does one know when one is there? Well, how does one know when one is in love? Only the heart “knows.”

 

There are different levels one can approach these formal yogic practices. I recommend divide and conquer – start slowly. It’s too much and too overwhelming to take all of this on. For example, in dealing with the moral aspects (limbs one and two), choose only one as a discipline, not all ten  that are listed.

 

May all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be free from suffering.

Let it shine!

Sara Moore