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The Eight Limbs of Yoga

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One of my favorite yoga books is The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali translated by Sri Swami Satchidanananda. According to Patanjali, by practicing the limbs of yoga, the impurities dwindle away and the light of wisdom dawns.

The Yoga Sutras book covers the guidelines for yoga practice including the eight limbs of yoga that a yoga student should follow. Each of the eight limbs are equal to each other. Patanjali states that the eight limbs are:

  1. Yama (abstinence or restraint)
  2. Niyama (observance or practice)
  3. Asana (posture practice)
  4. Pranayama (regulation of breath)
  5. Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal)
  6. Dharana (concentration)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (contemplation, absorption/super-conscious state)

“Control and discipline are very necessary in our lives. Without discipline nothing can be achieved.”

The Yoga Sutras

The Eight Limbs of Yoga Explained

Yamas – Moral discipline – The yamas consist of nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-greed.

Niyamas – Self-restraint – The niyamas consist of cleanliness (mind and body), contentment, discipline, self-study, and surrendering to a higher power.

Asana – Posture – Asana is the posture that brings comfort and steadiness in yoga. Any pose that brings you comfort and steadiness is enough. If it is just one pose, that is enough. Asanas serve two basic purposes, meditation, and health.

Pranayama – Breath Control – Pranayama is a good starting point for someone just beginning his or her yoga practice. Learning the proper way to breathe is essential. We usually take breathing for granted but breath control is about paying close attention to the process of breathing. Breath control can balance your mental energy.

Pratyahara – Sensory inhibition – Pratyahara is another way of controlling the mind. Sometimes our turbulent life can distract us and cause us confusion. The senses are like a mirror. Turned outward, they reflect the outside; turned inward, they reflect the pure light.

Eight Limbs of Yoga Explained | TheYogaChick.com

Dharana – Meditation begins with concentration. Concentration is the beginning of meditation. They are basically inseparable. Dharana is about binding the mind to one place, object, or idea.

Dhyana – Concentration- Dhyana is extended mental focusing. It is the continuous flow of thought toward one object where the mind is fixed. When meditating, we generally start in dharana and gradually flow into dhyana.

Samadhi – Ecstasy – Difficult to understand with limited experience. Meditation culminates in the state of samadhi. It’s not something that you can really practice. According to Patanjali, it is very difficult to put into words.

All of this may seem a bit overwhelming as it’s a lot to take in. Remember that as a practitioner of yoga, you are forever a student, forever learning.

The eight limbs of yoga are part of the massive Yoga Sutras which can teach us how to master the mind and achieve physical, mental and emotional harmony in life by applying ancient, yet timeless techniques of yoga. Everything does not have to be “checked off”. Most people study each portion carefully and meditate on them.

If you would like to get more in-depth explanations of the eight limbs of yoga and the Yoga Sutras, I strongly recommend The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda.

I also detail the yamas and the niyams in my article on saying no to gifts.

The eight limbs of yoga explained. | TheYogaChick


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