The Eight Limbs of Yoga
The Eight Limbs of Yoga provide an eightfold path of guidelines for the practice of Raja Yoga, they are also referred to as the “yoga do’s and don’ts”.
These Eight Limbs of Yoga are taught and followed globally; they form an important part of the foundation of yoga and help to reveal parts of yoga's historical roots. The Eight Limbs of Yoga are set out by the Sage Patanjali and are contained within the second chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s. This eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb).
The word sutra translates from Sanskrit to mean thread. When many threads are woven together each one supports the next to create a firm structure.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
Ahimsa – Non - Violence or non harming - not harming or hurting another living being in word, thought or deed. Also not harming yourself in word, thought or deed.
Satya – Truthfulness - as well as being true to others, satya includes following a path that is true to your beliefs.
Brahmacharya – Control of the senses including sexual energy. Today the term brahmacharya is often understood by considering moderation in all things, not over indulging and living simply with the items required.
Asteya - Not stealing, this includes not stealing physical items or stealing or wasting another persons time or energy.
Aparigraha – Being honourable and true to oneself. Not accepting gifts or bribes.
Saucha – Purity, maintaining cleanliness in word thought and deed, keeping yourself and living conditions clean.
Santosha – Contentment, being satisfied with where you are and what you have within the present moment.
Tapas – Provides motivation or an inner fire and a driving force to do the right thing, whilst maintaining a sense of austerity.
Swadhyaya – Self- study and/or the study of historical texts, learning from our own discoveries and experiences too.
Ishwara - Pranidhana – Surrender the ego and worship the lord, or to surrender to your higher self.
The yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances) form a moral code of conduct to keep the mind clear for undisturbed asana, pranayama and deep meditation.
Regular asana practice promotes a healthy mind and body.
Regular pranayama increases health and vitality, keeps energy channels clear and strengthens the mind.
The practice of Pratyahara helps keep the mind clear and focussed for deep meditation.
Dharana is complete concentration so that the mind does not become distracted or wander.
Not being distracted by past, present or future thoughts.
Samadhi is a state of extreme bliss that is required to reach the ultimate goal of enlightenment. However there are varying levels of samadhi and it can be experienced as just a moment in time and for others the state might last a life time.
The eight limbs of yoga support each other. By mastering and practising each limb one can embark on a journey towards Samadhi. Each stage needs perfecting and to be mastered, before it is possible to reach Samadhi.