The Eight Limbs of Yoga

The practice of yoga is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit. Its objective is to assist the practitioner in using the breath and body to foster an awareness of ourselves as individualized beings intimately connected to the unified whole of creation. In short it is about making balance and creating equanimity so as to live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole. This art of right living was perfected and practiced in India thousands of years ago and the foundations of yoga philosophy were written down in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, approximately 200 AD. This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an eight-step blueprint for controlling its restlessness so as to enjoying lasting peace.

The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine. Because we are all uniquely individual a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding.

In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows:

Yama :  Universal morality

Niyama :  Personal observances

Asanas :  Body postures

Pranayama :  Breathing exercises, and control of prana

Pratyahara :  Control of the senses

Dharana :  Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness

Dhyana :  Devotion, Meditation on the Divine

Samadhi :  Union with the Divine

The first two limbs that Patanjali describes are the fundamental ethical precepts called yamas, and the niyamas. These can also be looked at as universal morality and personal observances. Yamas and niyamas are the suggestions given on how we should deal with people around us and our attitude toward ourselves. The attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is yama, how we relate to ourselves inwardly is niyama. Both are mostly concerned with how we use our energy in relationship to others and to ourselves.

by William J.D. Doran

via The Eight Limbs of Yoga, A Basic Overview.

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- who has written 48 posts on Yoga Modern.

David Sunshine has passionately pursued yoga and Eastern Philosophy throughout his life. He visits India regularly and has had the opportunity to meet and study under a number of great teachers and luminaries such as Ramanand Patel, BKS Iyengar, TKV Desikachar, and H.H. The Dalai Lama. For the past 14 years David has owned and directed the Dallas Yoga Center and recently he has created a gorgeous healing oasis retreat called the DYC Holistic Wellness Center. Click here to visit David Sunshine's page in the Yoga Modern Community.

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