“The Eight Limbs of Yoga” were created by Patanjali as a road map to lead a meaningful and purposeful life, essentially reaching the summit of human experience!
Fun Fact: Patanjali is believed to have lived in the second century BCE and wrote Ayuveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine as well as Sanskrit grammar.
Below you will find an overview of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
Yama– The first limb has to do with one’s ethical standards. This is mainly about how we practice off of the mat, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. There are five yamas:
Non Covetousness (Aparigraha)
Niyama– The second limb focuses on self-discipline and spiritual observances. Examples include saying grace before a meal, attending church regularly, or developing your own meditation practices. There are five niyamas:
Spiritual austerities (Tapas)
Study of Sacred Scriptures and of one’s self (Svadhyaya)
Surrender to God (Isvara Pranidhana)
Asana– The third limb refers to the postures and poses practiced in yoga. Due to the fact that the body is a temple of spirit; taking care of your body is an important stage in spiritual growth. FUN FACT: Practitioners develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate.
Pranayama– The fourth limb is also known as breathing techniques that are practiced among yogis. These exercises are designed to not only gain control over the respiratory process, but also to recognize the connection between your emotions, the mind, and the breath. The literal translation of pranayama is “life force extension”, it has been researched and is strongly believed that practicing these techniques will extend life itself.
Pratyahara– The fifth limb means gaining mastery over external influences. This is one of the most important stages in which we make the effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. 3 Levels of Ahara:
Physical Food– The five elements that we need to nourish the body (earth, water, fire, air, and ether)
Impressions– Sensations of sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell.
Associations– People who serve to nourish the soul and affect us with gunas of ssattva, rajas, and tamas (Harmony, Distraction, or Inertia) Pratyahara involves WITHDRAWING the wrong food, wrong impressions, and wrong associations, while simultaneously opening up to the right food, right impressions, and right associations. By withdrawing our awareness from negative impressions, this strengthens the mind’s powers of immunity. A healthy mind resists negative sensory influences around it. This article IS an amazing read about Pratyahara and I encourage you to read it to learn more about how important this limb truly is, especially in today’s society : https://yogainternational.com/article/view/pratyahara-yogas-forgotten-limb
Dharana– The sixth limb is also known as concentration. This stage enables us to deal with distractions of the mind itself and how to slow down our thinking process. Our attention tends to travel and practicing yoga regularly will enable you to develop powers of concentration and full attention on a single point. Extended dharana leads to meditation which brings us to the seventh limb, dhyana.
Dhyana- Dhyana is the uninterupted flow of concentration, also known as meditation. In this stage, there are few thoughts and your mind has been quieted. The amount of strength it takes to reach ‘Dhyana’ is impressive, as it is difficult, but still possible.
Samadhi– The eighth and final stage is a state of ecstasy, where they experience bliss and being at one with the universe. Overall, Patanjali, described is the path to peace, happiness, and pure joy. The ultimate stage in yoga is enlightenment that can neither be bought or possessed, only experienced.