On my first day of class for my yoga teacher training program last year (2017), we covered the eight limbs of yoga philosophy according to Patanjali, the father of modern yoga. The ultimate goal of yoga is to prepare, cleanse, and strengthen the body and mind so enlightenment can be achieved. The eight limbs are comparable to principles one can follow to reach this goal.
As a way to help me digest what I learned about the eight limbs, I created a unique and very helpful concept. My concept was to develop cartoon numbers to teach these principles of yoga. The series is called Principle By Number. Here’s a little background on these characters: You’ll notice each number is a different color (based on the chakra system), they each have their own personality as numbers do, and each cartoon will hopefully inspire you with wisdom as they have already inspired me immensely.
I understand this is a lot of information to take in so feel free to scroll down the different cartoons and see if one calls to you. When you find one, first observe it, then take it in. What does it say to you? When you’re ready, read the description and see if there are similarities. This should be fun, so sit back, relax, and tell your inner child it’s time to come out and play!
The first limb is yama, meaning abstentions or things to avoid. Did you know the word LIVE backwards is EVIL? The numbers above are showing you a reflection of one part of the spectrum of Self. When I meditated on this concept, it reminded me that everyone has evil-potential, just as everyone has angelic-potential, along with the spectrum of combinations between them. Each moment of life allows us to choose how we want to live. I believe the most satisfying way of experiencing life is to lead with actions from the heart.
Niyama, or observances, is the second limb of yoga philosophy. There are five observances according to Patanjali: Saucha (Purity), Santosha (Contentment), Tapas (Austerity), Swadhyaya (Self-study), and Ishwara pranidhana (Surrender). I may have taken it a bit too literally, but my cartoon is really focused on the study of Self. Number three is observing her-Self through her many selves and perspectives. High, low, inside, out, young, old, near, far…some may call this remote viewing. The gray background is the void, a mix of dark and light. It’s where our perspectives, ideas and opinions develop. One way to truly know ourselves is through observation of the mind and body.
Number four is demonstrating the 3rd limb, asanas, or poses. Yoga poses are known to positively affect our energy. In yoga philosophy, we have five layers of the subtle body called Panchakoshas. Because four is connected to the heart chakra, the first pose shows off his vibrant green. The pose to the right shows how his energy is changing into another heart chakra color, pink. In the lower left pose, he’s still becoming more and more vibrant and then in the lower right, after his last pose, you’ll see how he is transformed into a completely new four with highly charged Panchakoshas!
In the cartoon above, numbers six, eight, and one are practicing the 4th Limb, pranayama. Pranayama is breath control. By using a variety of pranayama techniques, you can create balance in your digestive, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. It can calm the mind and reduce anxiety (AKA Monkey Brain). Prana, or life force, is enhanced and can nourish the Pranamaya Kosha, which is one of the five Panchakoshas.
The 5th limb is pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses. You will see zero as the first one in line at the bank, withdrawing a bag of cents. The next numbers in line connect with our senses in this reality (Chakras 2, 1 & 3). Notice none of the higher numbers are in line because they connect with higher dimensions, not of this reality. Nine is behind the counter helping this process, like most higher chakras do, help the lower vibrational centers reach their goals. I included the water droplets because they remind me of a few things. One, they look like little scattered zeros, so you could say there’s a lack of sense. Two, water has been associated with money for ages. Notice the words “currency, liquidation, deposit”…even the word “bank,” like a river bank, are connected to water (2nd Chakra). Water is life, money creates a quality of life, and senses, in this reality, bring light to life, in order to make sense.
This cartoon represents the 6th Limb: dharana, or concentration. Number six’s eye (aka the 3rd eye chakra) is centrally located, surrounded by six television sets showing different numeral distractions. The overall message is when you turn inward, the outward has no power over you. You can always turn it off.
Dhyana, or meditation, is the 7th limb of yoga philosophy. It’s where the meditator no longer becomes aware that they’re meditating. Every act in life becomes a meditation, it has an effortless and joyous flow and fulfillment. I used the mantra “OM.” The numbers zero and three are expressing this mantra backwards and forwards, in a mirrored fashion. This sound creates a meditation effect. It’s the sound of our life: the beginning, middle and end. Repeat.
The 8th and final limb is samadhi, or super consciousness. This limb shows the ultimate goal of unifying with the source, becoming one, and becoming everything. In sanskrit, this description is also know as yoking, or union. I used the lined paper as a background because it reminds me of school. Every day of life is a chance for us to learn something to better ourselves and better understand ourselves. As we climb the path of knowledge and experience, perhaps one day we will reach this state of union.
I also have to make a note and a reminder that yoga is not a religion. The “Buddha” One on the right is my interpretation of oneness. Every statue I see of Buddha shows a smile of contentment and inner knowing. When I contemplate samadhi, Buddha was the first one to pop in my head so I felt the need to acknowledge him in cartoon form.
I hope you enjoyed my number characters as I have enjoyed creating them for this series. If there was a limb that really drew you in, go back to it and meditate on it. Perhaps it will help you assimilate energies regarding that limb of yoga philosophy for your current situation. Or perhaps you’ll receive some answers to questions you’ve been pondering in general. Also, if any numbers caught your eye, I encourage you to do some self study of your own. See what chakra it’s connected to and spend time with it. Who knows what insights you’ll gain in your next meditation!