The 8 Limbs of Yoga

The Yoga Sutras of PataƱjali is a widely read and respected compilation of hundreds (if not thousands?) of years of Yogic Philosophy. It is actually a volume of aphorisms meant to be contemplated individually and as a whole in an exploration of Hindu philosophy. It is in the Yoga Sutras that we find The Eight Limbs of Yoga, considered to be the foundation of Ashtanga Yoga.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga include physical practice, Asana, but that is only one of the Eight Limbs, and not even the first. The Eight Limbs are listed in order, starting with the most basic practice and then subsequent limbs build on previous. The Eight Limbs are as Follows:

Yamas (Things to be avoided in our relations with others) and Niyamas (Behaviors to cultivate in our development of ourselves)
Asana (Physical exercise for health and to prepare the body for meditation)
Pranayama (Breathing exercises for the benefit of physical health and also meditation)
Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses from external stimulus-focus on the subtle rather than the gross)
Dharana (Single-pointed focus on a physical object)
Dhyana (Steady meditation on the point of focus)
Samadhi (oneness with the object of meditation, also, liberation)

So, isn’t this good news for those of us who feel that full lotus may not be a part of this lifetime! Even before we get to the physical practice of Asana, we can become yogis by practicing right relationships with others and ourselves.

Up Next: What are the Yamas and Niyamas?