A couple of times each year, Sri Dharma leads "The Life of a Yogi" Teacher Trainings in his center in New York City. Staying true to the name of the course, we learn what it means to be a yogi in every moment of life as we are given tools, knowledge, and a perfect example of a yogi - Sri Dharma himself. We adopt a yogic lifestyle in a holistic sense by the study of 8 limbs of yoga, yoga philosophy and various techniques and practices. We also study the classic yoga textbooks such as The Bhagavad-Gita, The Yoga Sutras of Patanajli and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
What are the 8 Limbs?
YAMA - The ethical rules that relate to our behaviour and thinking towards others.
NIYAMA - The inner observences that have to do with our thinking and behavior within ourselves.
ASANA - Physical postures/the excercises
PRANAYAMA - Control of the life-force by controlling the breath
PRATYAHARA - Control of the senses
DHARANA - Concentration
DHYANA - Concentration without Interruption
SAMADHI - Absorption with the object of contemplation
What does the Life of a Yogi who follows the 8 limbs look like?
Yogis who follow the traditional 8-limbed path practice non-violence and compassion. They are honest and not greedy. They don't take more than what they need in life. They practice self-reflection to understand themselves better. They give their best effort and have a desire to purify their mind and body. They enjoy silence and practice concentration and meditation techniques to calm body and mind. They practice gratitude, devotion and surrender. And they don't give up.
They eat simple and natural food. Sometimes they fast and do cleanses that heal and help the body function better. When our bodies are tired and sick we are more likely to be grumpy and not think clearly. Healthy Body = Healthy Mind. When we feel better, we see the world differently and we treat others with more compassion. Like Sri Dharma always says, Yoga is seeing yourself in others. As yogis, we start to experience that we are all part of one collective consciousness.
Yogi's exercise their bodies to cultivate radiant health. They realise this also affects the more subtle parts of the body and spiritual being. Yogis practice breathing exercises to balance their own prana/energy/chi. Prana is the energy that gives all living things life and movement. It is what makes all the different functions of the body work (the bones to grow, the organs to work, etc). Prana is also present in the Earth. It makes the flowers to bloom, the earth to rotate etc. Yoga teaches us how to affect the prana in our own body by different methods of controlling the breath. This ability to control the energy in our body gives us strength, health and discipline of mind.
With constant practice and through various methods, yogis develop an ability to concentrate the mind. Learning to control the mind and move beyond attachment to the physical senses offers great power, especially in this life that is filled with temptations, stories, noise and drama. There is great strength in being able to be a steady flame that doesn't flicker in the wind.
Once we are able to control the mind a little, we then enter into the state of meditation. The preceding limbs prepare the mind for this state. Without practice and discipline of the other limbs, of course meditation will be difficult. This is why there is great power in the complete practice and observance of the 8 limbs of yoga. Meditation happens when we are to hold the mind on one point for a while. We then become a witness of all mind and body activities. We move beyond identifying with the fluctuations of the mind and body senses.
Yoga is the path of purification of character and conduct (the cleansing of one's physical and mental nature) wherein the highest state of reality and truth may shine undiminished in the hearts and minds of all beings. This is the true goal of yoga.