The 8 Limbs of Yoga

Yoga, an ancient practice, is so much more than the physical postures we are familiar with in the West. Ever heard of the “8 Limbs of Yoga”?

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a remarkable spiritual document. It is nearly 2,000 years old and there are many different translations of his Sutras translated from the ancient Sanskrit language to English. In the Sutras, Patanjali describes 196 observations on the nature of consciousness and liberation. He was also “the knower of the field” which made him a great philosopher and teacher of how to live and master your own life. In the Sanskrit language, the word “Sutra” means “thread” or line that holds things together.

Patanjali presents Ashtanga Yoga or the eight limbed path that can eventually lead to Samadhi or enlightenment. The eight limbs are considered spiritual disciplines that one practice’s with both physical body and mind. These practices are known as The Yamas and Niyama’s which refer to how our yoga practice influence and guides us in our internal and external world effecting how we connect with the world, self-study, truthfulness, cleanliness, contentment, breath moral code, and so on.

8 Limbs of Yoga

Although listed in linear format, it isn’t really a linear path; there is an overlap between some limbs and you don’t have to “master“ the first limb before moving to the second.

  1. Yamas: 5 universal principles & social ethics
  2. Niyama’s: 5 personal practices to enhance your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual wellbeing
  3. Asana: The physical postures used to release tension in the body & focus the mind in preparation for meditation
  4. Pranayama: Mindful breathing techniques to regulate, slow or intensify, the breath, quiet the mind & enhance the flow of prana or energy through the body
  5. Pratyahara: Turning inward; or the withdrawal of attention away from the outside world and bodily sensations in order to connect to your inner wisdom
  6. Dharana: Concentration. Placing your attention on a single thing (eg body, breath, thoughts, image, or mantra) to anchor your awareness in the present moment
  7. Dhyana: A meditative state in which there isn’t any real focus
  8. Samadhi: Pure Bliss or enlightenment. Complete harmony with the Self with universe

“Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind.” Patanjali

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds, your mind transcends your limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, facilities, and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” – Patanjali 250BC