What are the limbs of Yoga?
Living yoga means integrating the principles of yoga into your thoughts, words and actions; it means taking yoga beyond your mat. To know more about yoga, here is a resume of the base and roots of this discipline.
Who Is Patanjali?
Patanjali, a revered scholar in the yogic tradition, is credited with authoring the Yoga Sutras, a foundational text for classical yoga. Patanjali is estimated to have lived in India sometime between the 5th century BCE to 4th century CE.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali compiled all available knowledge about the development of the consciousness and structured it in such a way, that is could be separated from any particular religious teachings or doctrine.
According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is an eight-fold path leading to liberation, known as the “Ashtanga Yoga System” or “Eight Limbs of Yoga”, which teach us different facets of how to embody yoga (unity) in mind, body, and spirit.
The eight limbs are referred to as ashtanga, ashta meaning eight and anga meaning limb in Sanskrit.
The Eight Limbs Of Yoga
The Eight Limbs of Yoga are core principles that serve as a compass for living a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.
1. YAMA (attitudes toward our environment)
Yama refers to vows, disciplines or practices that are primarily concerned with the world around us, and our interaction with it. There are 5 yamas: Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-stealing), Brahmacharya (Chastity and fidelity), Aparigraha (Non-coveting).
2. NIYAMAS (attitudes toward ourselves)
The Niyamas are practices that inform self-discipline and worldview. There are 5 Niyamas: saucha (cleanliness), santosha (contentment), tapas (burning of desire or conversely), svadhyaya (self-study or self-reflection and study of spiritual texts) and isvarapranidaha (surrender to a higher power).
3. ASANA (physical postures)
Asana refers to the physical postures practiced in yoga. It means “seat” in Sanskrit.
4. PRANAYAMA (breathing techniques)
In Sanskrit, prana is our vital life force, so pranayama is the cultivation and mindful use of life force. Pranayama is the practice of consciously controlling the breath, of taking your breath back into your own lungs. Pranayama leads to improved concentration, health, focus, clarity, creativity, purpose and compassion.
5. PRATYAHARA (withdrawal of the senses)
Pratya means to “withdraw”, and ahara refers to anything we “take in” by ourselves. Pratyahara is the practice of withdrawing from external stimuli to enhance internal awareness such as the various sights, sounds and smells our senses take in continuously. Mindfully return to quiet through meditation and removal of distractions.
6. DHARANA (concentration)
Dharana means “focused concentration”. Dha means “holding or maintaining”, and Ana means “other” or “something else”. Dharana is the practice of intense concentration, usually focusing on one object, such as the flame of a candle or a picture of a deity. This practice trains the mind in stillness and focus.
7. DHYANA (meditation)
Dhyana is the state of being keenly aware, yet without focus. It is awareness without judgment or attachment; it is peaceful, meditative and precedes complete bliss.
8. SAMADHI (complete integration)
The word samadhi as meaning “bliss” or “enlightenment”, and this is the final step of the journey of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is the state of intellectual equilibrium, where you can effectively and efficiently use the mind, but you are no longer attached to the outcome of the thoughts. It is transcendence, connectivity with the divine, a coupling with the universe, and a mind-body integration of the concept that “all things are one.”
Discover the 4 branches of Yoga (link to article 22)