What are the 8 Limbs of Yoga?

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The 8 Limbs of Yoga come from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. In this, the eightfold path is called ashtanga (ashta - eight, anga - limb). These eight steps are meant to be guidelines for living purposefully and are a moral and ethical description for self-discipline. The eight-limbed path forms the structural framework for the yoga practice.

These are the 8 Limbs of Yoga

1. The Yamas - Universal Morality

Ahimsa: Non-Violence.

Kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration. Treat all things with love and compassion. Speak from your heart, reduce apathy. Harm no moving, living thing.

Satya: Truth and Honesty.

Speaking up with honesty. Being forthright with truthful information. Don’t speak unless it is good, truthful, and helpful.

Asteya: Non-Stealing.

Be considerate, speak wisely. Take up less time to say something. Don’t steal intangibles (like time), the center of attention, or someone’s chance to learn. Don’t steal objects. Be on time.

Brahmacharya: Non-Lust.

Avoid meaningless sexual encounters.

Aparigraha: Non-Possessiveness.

Take only what you need, no second helpings. Take only what you have earned. Let go of hoarding & collecting, release attachments.

2. Niyamas - Personal Observances

Saucha: Purity.

Be clean and fresh - self, clothing, and surroundings. Be pure in the food you eat - eat more foods from the earth.

Santosha: Contentment.

Appreciate what you have, who you are and the small things every day. Seek happiness in each moment, take responsibility for where you are.

Tapas: Austerity.

Showing a disciplined use of energy - in body, speech, and mind. Attention to body posture, eating habits and breathing patterns.

Svadhyaya: Self-study.

Read sacred texts that are relevant to you and inspire you. Be aware of yourself.

Isvara Pranidhana: Surrender.

Surrender to divinity. Recognize that there is spiritual significance in everything, and with awareness, we can attune ourselves with our role in the spirituality of the universe.

3. Asana

The Yamas and Niyamas prepare the body for the asanas - the postures. The asanas discipline the body in order to develop the ability to concentrate for meditation.

4. Pranayama

Harmonized breath. Prana, or life force energy, rides on the breath. The practice of observing the breath leads to mastery of mind and emotions.

5. Pratyahara

A conscious decision to draw inward and to take awareness away from external stimuli. By withdrawing, one can objectively observe attachments and cravings.

6. Dharana

Unshakeable concentration. Allows the mind the opportunity to deal with distractions and to slow thinking by concentrating on a single object.

7. Dhyana

Meditation. An uninterrupted flow of concentration to create devotion. It is a state of being keenly aware without focus - the brain produces few or no thoughts at all.

8. Samadhi

Transcendence of the ego-self in order to experience the ecstasy known as bliss. There is a profound connection to the divine and an interconnectedness with all living beings.

Morgan Casavant