Let me start by saying that there are many different teachings or schools of thought. Although if we look long enough at these stories we start to see that they are actually all the same…leading to the same destination.
Let’s go to the beginning, the very beginning of you. You began at conception in the reproductive glands of your mom and dad- like a seed. The Muladhara chakra is connected to these glands as well as your legs/roots. Much like a person, a seed cannot blossom until it has first developed a strong root system. Within the roots of the plant as well as the human being is the primal need for survival. The Yamas are these roots as well as the first limb in the yogic tradition. They are the moral code of conduct for the yogi. There are five yamas; Satya-truth, Ahimsa-non-violence, Asteya,-non-stealing, Aparigraha- non-attachment, Bramacharya- celibacy. Those who begin to live by these moral codes will find that life becomes easier and they will be able to elevate above and beyond just mere survival. Enforcing these moral codes will ensure that the quality of the yogis life will improve beyond mere survival.
While the second limb Niyama, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. This limb reflects the second chakra as is considered the home of the chi energy. When we have elevated to this chakra it is a sign that our vibration or vital life force energy has increased. We are no longer concerned merely with survival but also learning to enjoy our experience, as this chakra is awakened the yogi will find her/himself desiring to experience pleasure in many different forms. This chakra, sits in the pelvis within the pelvic bowl which is where the water element resides. The alchemists believed that when a person is born this bowl is on the top of the head and is filled with divinity. Once you go through puberty it spills over and all the water fills the pelvic bowl thus filling the person with desire, sensuality, concern for self, beauty, attractiveness etc. This personality that develops during puberty, also referred to as the “EGO” resides here. As we find ourselves in sensuality and the ego begins to develop The 5 Niyamas; become very important if we want to elevate beyond the ego they are;Saucha- cleanliness, Santosha- Contentment, Tapas-intense self-discipline, Svadhyaya- Self-study, Ishvara Prnidhana-devotion. If these niyamas are practiced you will have a definiteness of purpose and a clear understanding of self.
Becoming acutely aware of the self, awakens the third chakra the manipura which is connected to the fire in your belly or the desire to take an action towards transformation. On the yogic path, the third limb is Asana which resides in the belly is also the place where food is transformed into energy, through the process of digestion. Manipura is the center of action and asana translates to, taking action towards desired results. Desire is what pushes the yogi towards action and once you have used asana to focus the mind and reunite the mind body and spirit you will be able to move beyond just mere action and into the heart.
The heart is also the home of the fourth limb and is the bridge that connects heaven and earth. It is where you become aware that there is more beyond that which is manifest. The first 3 limbs are dealing with the manifest world only and once we cross the bridge of the heart we move beyond manifest into the divine. This is achieved through using the focus you gained in asana to notice the breath. The breath if done with intention can feed the fire in the belly ultimately heating the water in the pelvic bowl and it can change form into steam/mist and rise back up to the bowl of origin at the top of the head—the return to divinity. The fourth limb is pranayama which literally translates to; prana-vital life force energy and Yama which means control… So together through this limb we are controlling the vital life force energy this limb sits in the chest where the breath happens.
The fifth limb is Pratyahara which translates to the removal of senses. Because our sense organs were strictly designed for survival, it makes sense that as we cross the bridge and move away from the manifestations of the earth towards a more divine understanding we want to withdrawal from what our sensory organs are telling us and start looking beyond our senses towards a deeper understanding of what exists beyond mere survival. All of our sense organs exists above the bridge of the heart; Smell, taste, hearing, seeing except touch which sits on the bridge. Touch or sensation is a powerful tool to direct the attention of our conscious mind. Our attention is a powerful tool in manifestation. Whatever you are focusing on and feeding with attention is becoming stronger and more realized. When practicing yoga we use sensation to direct the flow of energy through the meridians or energy channels in the body. Something as simple as turning the palms up takes your consciousness towards a cosmic consciousness while turning them down says I wish to bring my attention to that which is manifest. The fifth chakra is also the compression valve for the whole body. As we feed the fire in the belly with oxygen(deep breathing) it grows bigger and all fires create smoke that we release through the exhale. When we get too built up with energy; anger, frustration, even joy, and we aren’t letting it out we will eventually burst either into laughter or a fit of rage. This is the release necessary to normalize the body again.
The sixth and seventh limb sit in the ajna chakra (the seat of our intuition). We cannot connect with our inner guidance until we have started to look inward. It is imperative that you turn away from the external world and the manifest world to be able to connect with that which is divine to know your true self/ true nature and to feel the presence of the beloved. The ajna chakra or third eye isn’t an eye that sits in the center of your forehead looking outward at the world and seeing it differently, it is the eye that rotate back inward looking back at the Self. And that which exists under the veils. Dharana (the sixth limb which translates to holding steady or concentration and Dhyana the seventh limb which the yogi elevates to through extreme concentration in meditation where everything of matter dissipates and the yogi transcends.
It is said that the eighth limb is fleeting and at some point most of us have experienced it. Once you have traveled beyond the body you will see that you are everything, the beloved is you and so is the sky, the earth and the cosmos, you are nothing and all of it at the same time. This is the experience of Samadhi or Nirvana. This is aligned with the seventh Chakra Sahasrara which sits above the head and resonates with the sound “Aum”