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The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Eight Limbs of Yoga Image | TheYogaChick.com

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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


  1. July 12, 2019 / 7:51 pm

    I do very little yoga, and so of course I did not know about all of this. I love this discovery and thanks for sharing it. You’re right, it is a bit overwhleming to remember. But I am pretty sure that once I get into it, it should come to me pretty easily.

  2. July 13, 2019 / 6:52 am

    I never realized all the different aspects of yoga. If I understand correctly, then Pratyahara is when your brain actually shuts up and lets you not think about all the insanity of life?

  3. July 13, 2019 / 5:02 pm

    I’ve taken a few yoga classes before and they used some of these of these limbs in their teaching! There’s so much more to yoga than just stretching and breathing!

  4. July 13, 2019 / 5:03 pm

    I’ve taken a few yoga classes before and they used some of these of these limbs in their teaching! There’s so much more to yoga than just stretching and breathing! Thanks for sharing!

  5. July 13, 2019 / 11:31 pm

    I love this! I’ve practiced yoga off and on for several years, more off than on this year. You’ve reminded me how much more than just stretching and poses yoga is.

  6. July 14, 2019 / 11:17 am

    I have never heard of the eight limbs of yoga before despite taking classes on a non-regular basis for years. Reading through your post, I do see that instructors have weaved the philosophy into their classes. I am taking a class this afternoon. I am curious to see how many of the limbs are a part of the class (that I am able to discern.)

  7. July 14, 2019 / 6:34 pm

    I tried a few yoga classes in the past. It is quite interesting and would love to take more of them. I never knew about all these types though, so thanks for sharing.

  8. July 15, 2019 / 12:04 pm

    I really want to take up yoga. While it’s great for the body, I think I am also in need of the benefits to my spirit.

  9. Meagan Badore
    July 15, 2019 / 9:06 pm

    I am just getting back into my yoga practice and study, so this post was perfect timing to teach me more about the practice. I will need to read the book you mentioned in the future. Thank you for this post.

  10. July 16, 2019 / 2:23 am

    My mom was doing Yoga years before. When every time I read your blog I’m just thinking I should do it too 🙂
    Thanks for sharing Yoga stuff with us! Hope to hear from you soon.

  11. July 16, 2019 / 11:30 am

    This is a lot to take in but it’s very interesting. I just started doing a little yoga myself and I’m reading up on it and ways I can take full advantage of it.

  12. July 17, 2019 / 11:13 am

    I had no clue about all of these different aspects of yoga. I will have to dig deeper to learn more about it as well. I love how it focuses on so many different things.

  13. July 24, 2019 / 3:21 pm

    It’s been a few years since I seriously seriously practiced yoga, but I remember the 8 limbs of yoga well. I need to get back to my practice!

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