Tree of Yoga

When one thinks about Yoga today, the first thing that comes to mind is the physical practice of postures, or Asana. As described in Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras, Asana is only 1 of the 8 limbs of Yoga. Applying the other 7 will not only deepen our physical and spiritual practice but also help take our yoga off the mat and into our daily lives. To help better understand how the 8-step path comes all together, I will use BKS Iyengar’s representation of the Tree of Yoga:

Roots: Foundation for living honorably and clearlyTree of Yoga, Ashtanga, 8 Limb Path
Yama – a list of outward observances representing principles of ethical behavior

  • Ahimsa – non harming, compassion for self and others
  • Satya – truthfulness, being honest with ourselves and others
  • Asteya – non-stealing, freeing oneself from the desire to have something that has not earned or paid for
  • Brahmacharya – wise and balanced use of energy
  • Aparigraha – non-attachment, living with generosity of spirit and action

Trunk: Establishing a base of purity in one’s body and mind
Niyama – Inward personal observances that improve the self and surrounding relations

  • Sauca – cleanliness in one’s body, mind, and surroundings, treating our body as a temple
  • Santosha – practice of contentment, seeing the good in things, counting one’s blessings
  • Tapas – heat, energy of self-tranformation to promote a healthy mind, soul and body
  • Svadhyaya – study of texts and self study
  • Isvarapranidhana – letting go of ego, a feeling of being an expression of the whole universe

Branches: Strong and flexible to move with the wind of life
Asana – physical practice of yogic postures

Leaves: Drawing in life force through the exchange of breath
Pranayama – mastering the science of breath, breath control

Bark: Protecting the tree from outer elements and preventing its essence from flowing outward
Pratyahara – turning awareness inward, sense withdrawal

Sap: Juice which carries the energy on this inward journey, links the whole tree as one
Dharana – focused state of concentration, bringing the mind to a single point of focus

Flowers: The blooming of practice
Dyana – meditation, reaching focus and holding the mind there

Fruit: The essence of the tree
Samadhi – bliss, to feel unity, peace, freedom

Sources:

  • “The Tree of Yoga” BKS Iyengar
  • “Teaching Yoga” Mark Stephens

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *