What are the 8 Limbs of Yoga?

Yoga is a practice that is designed to reduce the fluctuations of the mind. Once this happens, we are able to meditate and go within, to find our own light & reservoir of wisdom. Yoga extends far beyond the physical practice, or asanas, that we so frequently associate with yoga poses. The 8 Limbs offer practices that can help simplify our lives, and if observed, simplify the thoughts, worries, and preoccupations that keep our “monkey minds” so busy- jumping from thought to thought to thought. These practices prepare us for meditation, and can eventually lead to Samadhi, the state of bliss and peace that is our birthright.

  1. YamasMoral Restraints: These are reflective tools to help increase self-awareness, and insight, and improve our relationships with ourselves and others. There are 5:

Ahimsa-Non-harming: This involves non-harm in acts, words, thoughts, or deeds. This applies to how we speak of others, and ourselves. This is where practicing self-love and compassion is encouraged. 

Satya-Truthfulness: Truthfulness to ourselves and others. Choosing our words wisely. Living with integrity. 

Asteya-Non-Stealing: Not taking what you don’t need. Having healthy boundaries-physical, emotional, and mental. Living from a place of abundance. 

Brahmacharya-Conservation of Creative Energy: Not depleting your vitality, direction of energy, and power towards things that benefit your growth and allow the other yamas to be practiced. 

Aparigraha-Non Gripping: Practicing non-possessiveness or non-grasping of things, feelings, memories, and beliefs that don’t serve us in the present. Being able to let go.

  1. NiyamasObservances: These maintain a positive environment in which to grow, gain self-discipline and inner strength to progress on the path to yoga. There are 5:

Saucha-Cleanliness: Practicing awareness and cleanliness of state of mind, environment, and lifestyle. Seeking out positive environments inside and out. 

Santosha-Contentment: Practicing finding contentment and acceptance with all life gives us, the good and the bad, which can free us from unnecessary suffering.

Tapas-Heat, Self-Discipline: Practicing positive things that go against the grain of what we normally do, and or want to do, builds heat, self-discipline, and willpower. 

Svadhyaya-Self-Study: This refers to the study of sacred texts (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or Bhagavad Gita) as well as one’s self. Any texts that bring us closer to self-actualization. To know how/when our ego shows up. Noticing ourselves with a desire to be aware, and to be connected to our “Self”.

Isvara Pranidhana-Surrender to God: Cultivating a deep and trusting relationship with Higher Power, Source, God, Allah, the Universe, etc.

  1. Asanas: Postures or forms of yoga. Literally means to find comfort and steadiness in your “seat”. It is the least mentioned of all 8 limbs of yoga, in the Yoga Sutras.

  2. Pranayama: This translates from Sanskrit to “the mastery of life force”. Mindfully breathing can bring the mind, body, and spirit into harmony.

  3. PratyaharaTurning inward or conscious removal of attachment/energy to the senses. This allows the mind to move inward, removing external distractions from meditation.

  4. Dharana: This means concentration (on the present moment or doing one thing at a time). Here we can cultivate control over our minds, intrusive thoughts, feelings, beliefs, memories, etc.

  5. DhyanaMeditation on one object or point of focus, with the intention of coming to a better understanding of that object.

  6. Samadhi: Samadhi is the union of all our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional parts, to reach enlightenment or self-realization.
This 8 Limbed path to Samadhi was laid out in the Yoga Sutra’s, written by the sage Patanjali sometime between 200 BCE-200 CE. This article has been a brief introduction to this path. There’s much more of yoga to discover! Could any of these be helpful to you in your path to healing? If so, just begin to practice them, and see what you notice in your daily life. That is the only way to find out if they can be useful for you.