Eight Limbs of Yoga
If you go to a yoga class, you may hear about the “eight limbs” or eightfold path of yoga. This comes from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Centuries ago, Patanjali was a great sage who compiled this essential guide/ foundational text of yoga principles. Within the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes this eightfold path for moral and ethical conduct towards oneself and others.
Yoga is more than just a physical practice “Asana”, which is only one of the eight limbs. By practicing yoga, you slowly become aware of how to take care of your body/ mind and how you treat those around you. The Yoga Sutras were originally written in Sanskrit and there are many translations, but if you look at the core principles, they are actually very practical.
Take a few minutes each day to sit and meditate with each of these limbs. And remember, when reading about the limbs, especially the yamas and the niyamas, keep an open mind and don’t take the concepts so literally. Try to interpret the limbs and apply them to your life. It’s about being disciplined in how you treat yourself and those around you. The power and capacity within each individual can seem to be beyond comprehension. Therefore, the Yoga Sutras are a wonderful guide in moving towards that potential.
1. Yamas– how we behave in life and towards those around us
Ahimsa– nonviolence; being kind to all beings
Satya– truthfulness; “speaking your truth” (while still keeping in mind Ahimsa)
Asteya– nonstealing; not just the act of not stealing but the mental intentions/desires that we cultivate in our minds
Brahmacharya– continence “don’t take this too literally” 🙂
Aparigraha– non-hoarding; non-greediness; to own only what is necessary
2. Niyamas– self-discipline
Saucha– cleanliness; taking care and purifying your body
Samtosha– contentment; being content with things in the present moment
Tapas– heat “physical practice”; cleansing the body and mind through practice/ exercise
Svadhyaya– self study “examining yourself and the world”; journaling/reading
Isvarapranidhana– surrender to the universe, God, whom or whatever you believe in…or surrendering yourself to life if you choose…it’s really about simply letting go
3. Asana– disciplined physical practice “your body is a temple”
4. Pranayama– breath control; pranayama translates to “life force extension”; learning proper breathing rejuvenates your body and enhances your life
5. Pratyahara– withdrawing of the senses; moving towards meditation, we begin to transfer our awareness from the outside world to our internal self
6. Dharana– concentration on a single point; now moving away from the internal distractions of the mind
7. Dhyana– meditation; ultimate state of awareness without focus; state of stillness and contemplation (all of the previous limbs prepare for this state of meditation)
8. Samadhi– bliss; transcendence of the self; becoming one with the universe/ divine/ however you define it
~ Again take time to look into these limbs and determine how you can apply them to your life. While yoga can be a spiritual practice for some, it is not a religion. Yoga is a way of living and acting. You can define it for yourself. That is the beauty of the practice. ~