The 8 Limbs of Yoga are a set of guidelines that help you live a good life. They teach you how to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. The 8 Limbs of Yoga come from the Yoga Sutras, which is a book that was written by the sage Patanjali.
1. Yama: The Five “Restraints”
The first limb of yoga is yama, which can be translated as the five “restraints.” These restraints are designed to help us live more harmoniously with both ourselves and those around us. The yamas are:
- a) Ahimsa: Nonviolence or non-harming. This yama asks us to be mindful of the ways in which our actions affect others, and to try to always act with compassion.
- b) Satya: Truthfulness. This yama calls on us to speak our truth, and to live our lives in alignment with our values.
- c) Asteya: Non-stealing. This yama asks us to be mindful of how we use the resources of the earth, and to take only what we need.
- d) Brahmacharya: moderation or restraint. This yama calls on us to be mindful of our use of energy, and to use it in a way that is in alignment with our highest purpose.
- e) Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness or non-greed. This yama asks us to let go of attachment to material possessions, and to live in a way that is simple and humble.
What It Teaches Us: This first limb deals with your ethical standards and sense of integrity.
2. Niyama: The Five “Observances”
The second limb of yoga is niyama, which can be translated as the five “observances.” These observances are designed to help us live more harmoniously with ourselves. The niyamas are:
- a) Saucha: Purity or cleanliness. This niyama asks us to keep our bodies and minds pure, and to live in a way that is in alignment with our highest values.
- b) Santosha: Contentment. This niyama asks us to find contentment in what we have, and to be grateful for the blessings in our lives.
- c) Tapas: Austerity or self-discipline. This niyama asks us to be disciplined in our practice, and to use our yoga practice as a tool for self-transformation.
- d) Svadhyaya: Self-knowledge or introspection. This niyama asks us to turn inward and to get to know ourselves on a deeper level.
- e) Ishvara Pranidhana: Full Surrender to the Divine or Letting go. This niyama asks us to surrender our egos, and to let go of the need to control.
What It Teaches Us: The second limb is all about taking care of yourself both physically and mentally.
3. Asana: The Physical Practice
The third limb of yoga is asana, which can be translated as the physical practice. Asana is the practice of holding the body in a variety of static postures, and is designed to increase strength, flexibility, and stability.
What It Teaches Us: This third limb is all about your physical posture. It includes things like proper alignment and breathing.
4. Pranayama: The Breath Practice
The fourth limb of yoga is pranayama, which can be translated as breath practice. Pranayama is the practice of controlling the breath and is designed to increase our lung capacity and to calm the mind.
What It Teaches Us: The fourth limb is about controlling your breath. This helps you to control your thoughts and emotions.
5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the Senses
The fifth limb of yoga is pratyahara, which can be translated as the withdrawal of the senses. Pratyahara is the practice of turning our attention inward and is designed to help us focus the mind and to find inner peace.
What It Teaches Us: The fifth limb is about turning your senses inward. This helps you to focus on your own thoughts and feelings, rather than getting distracted by the things around you.
6. Dharana: Concentration
The sixth limb of yoga is dharana, which can be translated as concentration. Dharana is the practice of single-pointed focus and is designed to help us still the mind and develop our concentration.
What It Teaches Us: The sixth limb is about concentration. This helps you to focus your mind on one thing at a time.
7. Dhyana: Meditation
The seventh limb of yoga is dhyana, which can be translated as meditation. Dhyana is the practice of deep contemplation and is designed to help us connect with our innermost selves.
What It Teaches Us: The seventh limb is about meditation. This is when you let go of all thoughts and just focus on the present moment.
8. Samadhi: Enlightenment or Union with the Divine
The eighth and final limb of yoga is samadhi, which can be translated as union with the Divine. Samadhi is the practice of self-transcendence, and is designed to help us experience the highest state of consciousness.
What It Teaches Us: The eighth and final limb is about enlightenment. This is when you reach a state of complete peace and understanding.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga are a journey toward self-awareness and enlightenment. They ask us to take a look at ourselves from a variety of different angles and to work on improving our physical and mental well-being. The ultimate goal is to reach a state of union with the Divine, but even if we don’t achieve that lofty goal, we can still learn a lot about ourselves along the way. What have you learned about yourself through your yoga practice? Let us know in the comments below!