The 8 Limbs of Yoga
Compiled by the Sage Patanjali Maharishi in the Yoga Sutras, the Eight Limbs are a progressive series of steps or disciplines which purify the body and mind, ultimately leading the yogi to enlightenment.
These 8 limbs are:
1. Yamas – The Yamas or restraints (Don’ts) are divided into five moral injunctions, aimed at destroying the lower nature. They should all be practiced in word, thought and deed.
Ahimsa or non-violence
Satyam or truthfulness
Brahmacharya or moderation in all things (control of all senses). Also refers to celibacy and faithfullness
Asteya or non-stealing
Aparigraha or non-covetousness
2. Niyamas – The Niyamas or observances (Do’s) are also divided into five and complete the ethical precepts started with the Yamas. These qualities are:
Saucha or purity – this is internal and external cleanliness.
Santosha or contentment
Tapas or austerity, sincerity
Swadhyaya or study, always open to learning
Ishwara Pranidhana which is constantly living with an awareness of the divine Presence (surrender to God’s or the Universe’s Will)
3. Asanas – Postures
4. Pranayama – regulation or control of the breath. Asanas and Pranayama form the sub-division of Raja Yoga known as Hatha-Yoga
5. Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses in order to still the mind.
6. Dharana – concentration. The last 3 steps constitute the internal practice of Raja Yoga. When Dharana is achieved, it leads to the next step:
7. Dhyana – meditation is that state of pure thought and absorption in the object of meditation. There is still duality in Dhyana. When mastered Dhyana leads to the last step:
8. Samadhi – the superconscious state. In Samadhi non-duality or oneness is experienced. This is the deepest and highest state of consciousness where body and mind have been transcended and the Yogi is one with the Self and the universe (or God).
Danielle Bryant BSYA