In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the 8 Limbs of Yoga are given as guidelines. This eightfold path is called Ashtanga in Sanksrit, with ‘astha’ meaning eight and ‘anga’ meaning limb. This is the path of Yoga: cultivating overall well-being and balance in mind, body and soul both within ourselves and universally because in Yoga we believe that we are all one. The first four stages focus on developing a strong ethical code and conduct, taking care of/mastering the body and cultivating inner awareness, all of which are to prepare us for the next four stages which concentrate on coming to a higher state of consciousness.
Here are the 8 limbs of Yoga:
1) Yama (ethical code / morals / how we choose to behave in life)
There are 5 Yamas:
Ahimsa Non-violence / Non-harming
Brahmacharya Right use of energy
2) Niyama (inner observances / self-discipline / personal practices)
There are 5 Niyamas:
Tapas Self-discipline / Spiritual austerity
Svadhayaya Self-study & study of the scriptures
Isvara Pranidhana Surrender to a state of collective consciousness / to the Divine
3) Asana (posture, the postures we do on the mat e.g. at Yoga class)
4) Pranayama (Life force extension / breathing techniques / breath)
5) Pratyahara (Sense withdrawal / sense transcendence / detachment from the senses)
6) Dharana (Concentration / meditative focus from extended periods of concentration)
7) Dhyana (Meditative absorption / uninterrupted flow of concentration / complete stillness of mind)
8) Samadhi (Union/ bliss / enlightenment / transcendence of the Self / oneness)
There are many different translations and interpretations of the 8 limbs of Yoga and simply listing them only begins to scratch the surface. There is much to be said about and experienced with every limb and the outline above really doesn’t do any of it justice but is a simple means of introducing a little bit of the philosophy of Yoga!
Artwork by me.