This is also commonly referred to as ‘Patanjali’s Eightfold Path’.
Your successful and well-rounded growth through Yoga will depend on how effectively you integrate these eight limbs in your practice. These are wonderful fundamental principles found in the ancient text, Yoga Sutras, by Patanjali, an ancient Sanskrit scholar who wanted to make Yoga principles accessible to everyone.
The eight limbs are as follows:
1. Yamas (also called ‘the Laws of Life’). These sutras cover your external relationships, or the relationship you have to your environment and those around you.
There are 5 sub-limbs to Yamas:
- Ahimsa – Non-violence
- Satya – Truthfulness
- Asteya – Non-stealing or Non-taking
- Bramacharya – Positive Sexual Conduct
- Aparigraha – Greedlessness
2. Niyamas (also referred to as “Rules of Living”). This limb covers our internal relationship or the relationship we have with ourselves.
There are 5 sub-limbs to Niyamas:
- Santosha – Contentment
- Soucha – Cleanliness
- Tapas – Discipline; Passion; or “fire in the belly”
- Svadyaya – Study of Self
- Ishvarapranidana – Devotion to God
3. Asana – These are physical postures/ asanas that open up the energy centers in the body allowing the flow of prana (life force, also called chi). Practising the asanas regularly, with a view to being able to hold a meditation posture comfortably still for extended periods. When the posture is steady, so is the mind.
4. Pranayama – The expansion and increase of life force/ prana in the body with the asanas / yoga postures, and as a separate practice. Also means, “controlling the life force”. Commonly over-simplified to refer to “breathing”.
5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses from external noise/ distractions/ stimulation. This serves to prepare the mind for visualisation and concentration.
6. Dharana – Concentration – learning the one-pointedness of the mind.
7. Dhyana – Practising regular meditation so that the fluctuations of the mind or the internal dialogue ceases and you become calm and undisturbed by interrupting thoughts.
8. Samadhi – The final goal: bliss/ enlightenment/ transcendent consciousness.
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