The Eight Limbs of Yoga

by Delight Yoga

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, there is a section called 'Ashtanga yoga', or the 'eight limbs of Yoga', where he describes an eight-fold path toward liberation or freedom. These give us guidance towards living a meaningful life, both in the external and internal world. They can be viewed in a linear order, but keep recurring at different levels in a kind of spiralling effect that supports and enhances practice.  

The eight limbs are as follows:

1. Yama

The attitudes towards our environment.

The Yamas are:
1. Ahimsa (non-violence) - observing whether our thoughts, intentions, words, and actions are fostering the growth and well-being of all beings.
2. Satya  (truthfulness) - understanding the truth of who you are and living from that truth in every moment
3. Asteya (non-stealing) - not taking that which is not yours, and not taking more than you need.
4. Brahmacharya (non-excess) - self-restraint, discipline, will-power, moderation in all things
5. Aparigraha (non-attachment) - be happy with what you have. Everything we need is already here.


2. Niyama

The attitudes towards ourselves.

The Niyamas are: 
1. Saucha (cleanliness) - purity and cleanliness in body, speech, mind and spirit.
2. Santosha  (contentment) - Understanding that satisfaction with one’s immediate experience depends on being seated in the Self and not on external circumstances, which are always changing and beyond our control.
3. Tapah (austerity) - practising discipline in making choices that truly nourish your wellbeing and provide opportunities for growth.
4. Svadhyaya (self study) - practising activities that cultivate self-reflective consciousness.
5. Ishvara pranidhanani (devotion) - surrendering and trusting in the Divine Universe as consciousness, love and truth bring us to the point of absolute merging. 


3. Asana

The practise of body exercises or physical postures.


4. Pranayama

The practise of breathing exercises or breath control.


5. Pratyahara 

The restraint or withdrawal of our senses.


6. Dharana

Concentration or the ability to direct our minds.


7. Dhyana

Meditation or the ability to develop interactions with what we seek to understand.


8. Samadhi

 Ecstasy, self-realization or complete integration with the object to be understood.  

Understanding and researching these eight limbs is the ground for the Yoga practitioner and teacher. They require constant practice.


You can download the full Yoga Sutras translated by Chip Hartranff here.