The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Definition - What does The Eight Limbs of Yoga mean?

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes an eight-fold path to right living that is called The Eight Limbs of Yoga, or Ashtanga in Sanskrit. In the practice of yoga, individuals are dedicated to creating a union between mind, body and spirit. Patanjali's eight limbs outline a way to achieve and practice that balance. The eight limbs act as a guide for yogis to live a life of integrity, self-discipline, respect for nature and the spiritual aspects of life.

Yogapedia explains The Eight Limbs of Yoga

The Eight Limbs of Yoga include:

  1. Yama: five universal, ethical and moral standards to live life by (nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, continence and non-covetousness)
  2. Niyama: five spiritual and self-discipline observances (cleanliness, contentment, spiritual austerities, study of scriptures and surrender to God)
  3. Asana: physical yoga postures that help the body learn to focus and take care of the physical self, which is considered a temple of the spirit in yogic practice
  4. Pranayama: breathing exercises which develop control of the breath and are thought to provide long life
  5. Pratyahara: control over the senses through the practice of transcending the external world or stimuli, bringing focus inward
  6. Dharana: concentration on inner awareness or on a single point by removing all other distractions
  7. Dhyana: meditation or contemplation on the Divine, which includes an unbroken flow of concentration and quieting of the mind
  8. Samadhi: union with the Divine through transcending the Self, this stage includes feelings of deep peace and ecstasy

Often, popular yoga that is practiced in classes for fitness or health reasons does not incorporate the full eight limbs, focusing primarily only on asana and pranayama. However, individuals can benefit greatly from learning and practicing the eight limbs in addition to a physical yoga practice.

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