What are the 8 Limbs of Yoga?

Hajo with his daughter RonjaCreative Commons License photo credit: I am Kat.

In the West we most commonly think of Yoga as a form of exercise, a sequence of postures to stretch and tone the body. This is definitely an important part of Yoga but it also encompasses much more. Yoga is a philosophy of life that integrates mind, body and spirit. It is about creating balance in our lives and a feeling of connection and harmony with the world around us.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, written in 200 AD, lays out the core principles of right living according to yogic philosophy. This eight-limbed path of Ashtanga yoga (ashta=eight, anga=limb) is a framework for a yoga practice that moves yoga into your daily life.

A brief overview of the 8-faceted path of yoga:

1. Yamas are often thought of as restraints or don’ts that reflect our true nature. There are 5 yamas:

Ahimsa – Non-violence: Showing kindness and compassion to yourself and others.

Satya – Truth and integrity: Being honest with yourself and those around you.

Asteya – Non-coveting: Generousity and the realization that happiness doesn’t come from things outside of yourself.

Brahmacharya – Moderation and balance of your energies.

Aparigraha – Non-attachment and awareness of abundance.

2. Niyamas are rules of personal behaviour (observances) that help you to evolve toward harmony. There are 5 niyamas:

Sauca – Simplicity, purity and refinement.

Santosha – Contentment, being at peace with yourself and others.

Tapas – Enthusiasm and discipline: infusing your actions with zeal and sincerity (igniting the purifying flame).

Svadhyaya – sacred study of the Divine through scripture, nature and introspection.

Isvara Pranidhama – living with an awareness and dedication to the  Divine.

3. Asana – is the physical posture practice. Specific poses move energy throughout your body and promote health. Asan embracescomfort in being.

4. Pranayma – Breathing. Enhancement and guidance of breath and energy.

5. Pratyhara – Sense withdrawal: encouraging the senses to draw within.

6.  Dharana – Concentration or focused attention inward.

7. Dhyana – Meditation and the continuous inward flow of consciousness.

8.  Samadi – Enlightenment or union with the Divine consciousness.

There are many great interpretations of The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. Personally, I connect most strongly with  The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras by Nischala Joy Devi which is the basis for this post.

I named my blog Yoga Flavored Life because I was interested in looking at ways to infuse our days with yoga. In light of the eight limbs, there are many ways to bring yoga into your daily life.  Perhaps that means not getting down on yourself (Ahimsa) if you don’t complete every single task on your to do list or if you don’t stick to your new healthy eating plan.

Which limbs of yoga does your personal practice include? Is there anything would you like to add?

2 thoughts on “What are the 8 Limbs of Yoga?”

  1. Thanks for this wonderful post. I’m quite new to a daily practice of yoga, and I’m still mostly in the physical aspects of it. But I’m looking to deepen my practice and my understanding of what *yoga* really comprises. But where to start? It’s a little intimidating — there are so many ideas and phrases that are foreign to me. This post is a wonderful summary for a beginner like me to work from. And thanks for the book recommendation. I will definitely add it to my wish list.

  2. Charlotte Bradley

    I don’t know if I will ever not feel like a beginner… But I think that’s also what I love about yoga, there is always something to learn. Somethings completely make sense to me and others make me go huh?! So I just keep what works for me at the time.

    It’s true there are lots of phrases and a lingo to figure out – I was thinking of starting a “yoga glossary” of some sort here. Will put that on the to do list.

    All the best with your practice. Great blog you have, I love your honesty in writing. Just subscribed!

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