Half Lotus - Yoga PostureThe Eight Limbs of Yoga by Sue Fuller

The Eight Limbs of Yoga are an eightfold path that provide a set 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 part of the foundation of yoga and its historical roots.  They have been 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 

1.            Yama - Restraint 

Ahimsa – Non - Violence 

Satya – Truthfulness 

Brachmacharya – Control of the senses including sexual energy. 

Asteya - Not stealing and not to reveal jealousy.   

Aparigraha – Being honourable, do not except gifts or bribes. 

2.            Niyama - Observances 

Saucha – Purity 

Santosha – Contentment 

Tapas – Austerity 

Swadhyaya – Self- study and/or the study of historical texts. 

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. 

3.            Asana  - Steady Pose 

Regular asana practice promotes a healthy mind and body.   

4.            Pranayama - Control of Vital Energy 

Regular pranayama increases health and vitality, keeps energy channels clear and strengthens the mind.   

5.            Pratyahara - Withdrawal of Senses from Objects 

The practice of Pratyahara helps keep the mind clear and focussed for deep meditation. 

6.            Dharana - Concentration 

Dharana is complete concentration so that the mind does not become distracted or wander. 

7.            Dhyana - Meditation 

Not being distracted by past, present or future thoughts. 

8.            Samadhi - Super Conscious State 

Samadhi is a state of extreme bliss that is required to reach the ultimate goal of enlightenment. 

The eight limbs of yoga support each other.  By mastering and practising each limb one can embark on a journey towards Samadhi.  We should be aware that Samadhi is a very powerful and extreme state.  Each stage needs perfecting and to be mastered, before it is possible to reach Samadhi.  

Meditating on the Vayus by Sue FullerSue Fuller is a leading yoga teacher and writer.  She has written three training courses for The British School of Yoga and is a regular columnist for Natural Health and the Yoga Magazine.  Sue is also the creator of the Yoga 2 Hear range of over 60 audio yoga classes.  Audio Yoga classes allow you to practise yoga at a time and place that suits you without any visual distractions.