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What Are The 8 Limbs Of Yoga

The 8 Limbs Of Yoga Simplified

8 Limbs of Yoga BOARD #1: YAMAS- The No’s- LauraGyoga

Yoga is seeing life the way it is. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali;

;I first began the practice of yoga over a decade ago.;

Since then yoga has helped me cope with things like anxiety, depression, insomnia, illness, bad break-ups, and even a miscarriage.;

Like most, my entryway was the physical aspect of yoga ;

Each time I went to a yoga class I experienced the yoga high that resulted from the blending of mindful body movement, intentional breathing, and conscious awareness.;


I was hooked.;

And like any good addict, I wanted more of that high.

So I registered for a 200-hour yoga teacher training with the intention of deepening my practice in order to manage my anxiety and insomnia better.;

It was there that I discovered that the physical practice of yoga was just the tip of the iceberg.;

There, underneath the surface, was a whole new way of experiencing what yoga truly is a system and a discipline for mental and emotional mastery.;


This system was created thousands of years ago to help still the ripples of the mind and quiet the mental noise that prevents us from fully experiencing life as it truly is.

While the asanas focus mainly on the body, the eight limbs focus on transforming suffering by disciplining the senses.

Practicing this eight-limbed yoga can help you:

Awaken deeper understanding, insight, & intuition.

Cultivate the quality of calm inner balance regardless of outer circumstances.;


Grow inner strength and resilience.;

How To Practice The 8 Limbs Of Yoga

Yoga educators believe that if you practice the 8 Limbs of Yoga, youll lead a happier life. But how do you practice those 8 Limbs of Yoga? Well, lets take a deeper look into each of the 8 limbs. Remember, though, it takes work to practice the 8 limbs. And it isnt easy. There is a lot of temptation out in the world. And, you will have to train your body and your mind to master the 8 Limbs. Some people never actually master them. But, attempting to improve your life by trying to practice the 8 Limbs shows self-care and consideration for your health and emotional well-being.

Following the 8 Limbs of Yoga doesnt mean that youll have to become a nun or a monk. But you will have to think more about your choices. You may find yourself paying more attention to your consumption of both food, clothing and goods. You may think twice about the way you treat the people around you. You may not act frivolously or flirt meaninglessly. You may also find yourself with new friends who also want to practice the 8 Limbs of Yoga. And you may find that those new friends are as serious as you are about living a moral code.

Patajalis 8 Limbs Of Ashtanga Yoga Guide

PataƱjalis ancient text the;Yoga Stra;is our inspiration at OM Matters. This text was written around 250 B.C.E. in Sanskrit, and is known as the very foundation of yoga practice in the East and West. Although there are many translations and interpretations of The;Stra, most scholars agree that;yoga;means to yoke and;sutra;is a thread. The;Yoga Stra;is a thread of beautiful verses that outline the key tenets of yoga.

While the;Yoga Stra;evolved from foundations of Hinduism, it is not a religious text, but simply offers suggestions on how we can live our lives in peace and happiness.


What inspires us about this philosophy is that it:

  • Leads us to the understanding that;everything is interconnected, and encourages us to be mindful of all our actions, because;our actions;do;matter.
  • Challenges us to experience each of the philosophies and practices ourselves, to;trust our own experiences;and how practicing yoga makes us;feel;versus what someone else may be teachingeven;PataƱjali.
  • Gives us the 8 Limbs of Yoga, a roadmap and tools to guide us in our journey to live a more soulful and meaningful life.

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What Are The 8 Limbs Of Yoga

Yoga is a practice of transforming and benefitting every aspect of life, not just the 60 minutes spent on a rubber mat; if we can learn to be kind, truthful and use our energy in a worthwhile way, we will not only benefit ourselves with our practice, but everything and everyone around us.

In BKS Iyengars translation of the sutras Light On The Yoga Sutras, he explains that Yamas are;unconditioned by time, class and place, meaning no matter who we are, where we come from, or how much yoga weve practised, we can all aim to instil the Yamas within us.;

Read more about the;Yamas and Niyamas


Pratyahara Withdrawal Of The Senses

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

The fifth limb of yoga is all about withdrawing the senses from the outer world and drawing them inward so we can explore and become familiar with our internal landscape.;

Up to this point, the focus has been on the exterior on the other, on your body, and then on your breath;

We use the breath as a bridge to access the state of pratyahara, which is the beginning of the internal journey that culminates in spiritual insight and power.

The first four stages or limbs help us refine the parts of our personality that get in the way of us ascending through the rest of the stages.;

This first part of our journey is about gaining mastery over the body so that we can cultivate an energetic awareness of ourselves.;


Thanks to limbs 1-4 were now prepared and have built a strong foundation to ascend to the second part of our journey the transcendence of the senses and thought so we can access higher states of consciousness.;

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The Eight Limbs Of Yoga

You have probably practiced countless yoga poses and maybe even yogic breathing techniques, but did you know that the purpose of yoga is realizing the true essence of what we are?

The origins of Yoga date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions or even earlier times. It is thought that yoga started when people began questioning what or who they truly are. The yogic knowledge was passed down orally from teacher to student for thousands of years until a sage named Patanjali outlined the path of Ashtanga in the Yoga Sutrasaround 2000 years ago.

Ashtanga literally translates to Eight Limbs that guide the practitioner on how to still the fluctuations of the mind that produce the sense of a separate I which results in suffering. The goal according to Patanjali is to transcend the confines of the ego and realize our oneness with the Divine. Then, we truly attain yoga which means to unite, to yoke.


Each of the eight limbs covers a different aspect of yoga: From the outer limbs that focus on the physical body and ones interaction with the external world, to the inner limbs that focus on developing ones internal world.

Comparison Between The Eight Branches Of Yoga

Bhakti Yoga Based on devotion to a deity

Hatha Yoga Based on strict physical practices

Karma Yoga Based on using the mind as an instrument without attachment or expectations

Mantra Yoga Based on repeating a mantra

Jnana Yoga Based on the belief of oneness

Guru Yoga Based on meditating on Guru

Raj Yoga Based on the desire to unite with the divine

Tantra Yoga Based on activating the latent Kundalini energy

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Samadhi Bliss Or Enlightenment

Many of us know the word;samadhi;as meaning bliss or enlightenment, and this is the final step of the journey of Patanjalis Yoga Sutras. After weve re-organised our relationships with the outside world and our own inner world, we come to the finale of bliss.;

When we look at the word;samadhi;though, we find out that enlightenment or realisation does not refer to floating away on a cloud in a state of happiness and ecstasy. Sorry.

Breaking the word in half, we see that this final stage is made up of two words; sama meaning same or equal, and dhi meaning to see. Theres a reason its called;realisation ;and its because reaching Samadhi is not about escapism, floating away or being abundantly joyful; its about;realising;the very life that lies in front of us.;

The ability to see equally and without disturbance from the mind, without our experience being conditioned by likes, dislikes or habits, without a need to judge or become attached to any particular aspect;;that;is bliss.

Theres just one catch though Samadhi isnt a permanent state. Patanjalis Yoga Sutras importantly tell us that unless we are completely ready, without impressions such as attachment, aversion, desires and habits, and with a completely pure mind, we will not be able to maintain the state of Samadhi for long:

Praise For Janets Virtual Course Living The Yamas

#0 – The Eight Limbs of Yoga – Enrich your yoga practice

. She opens the door to allow the light, and teaches us to honor the parts of ourselves that we may not like all that much, while exposing the beauty within. Her storytelling skills are amazing, and I eagerly anticipate learning each chant from her and the interpretation of sanskrit.

Jessica, 500 Hour Teacher-Training Student

Janets online yamas course was such a great experience. ;I had never taken an online course before and I really enjoyed it for many reasons. In terms of my personal practice it gave me a focus for my practice and the self-development work with daily asana, pranayama and mantra. ;It was also so great, as it served to stimulate a lot of self-reflection of certain behaviors and patterns in my life, as they relate to the yamas. It was great way to connect to the Sangha due to the partner work involved in the course. ;All of the above served to enhance my teaching and deepen my offerings.

;Tanya Skok Hobbs, Yoga Teacher, Squamish, BC

;Raya, Teacher Training Student

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The Sutras Of Patanjali

The word sutra means to thread or weave just as the English word suture means to stitch together. The Sutras of Patanjali are divided into four sections or padas. The practice of yoga comes from section two called the Sadhana Pada.Ashtanga means eight and refers to Patanjalis eight limbs or branches of yoga. Each branch, when practiced, is designed to help the practitioner live a more disciplined life with the goal of alleviating suffering.

Patanjalis goal for us is that through these practices, we can still the mind and merge into oneness with the divine. When we awaken to divine essence, we are able to live fully from a place of authenticity. We are able to discern who we really are and what our purpose is. We dont have to look to the exterior to determine right from wrong, all the answers are found within.

Respect Your Comfort Zone

After joining a class you might getexcited and overdo the practices. This is really something to avoid! Know yourbodys capacity and never strain it. Otherwise, youll subconsciously developthe idea that yoga is equivalent to pain!

Yoga is something that should make you feel good and not strained. Therefore, from day one of your practice, watch if you are comfortable doing the particular form of yoga. If not, talk with your trainer and change the yoga practice.

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What Is The Significance Of Eight

The eight limbs of yoga are considered guidelines on how a person can lead a purposeful life. These are like disciplines or steps which lead to the path of enlightenment and towards a meaningful life. The eight-limbed yoga provides completeness to a practitioner with the attainment of divinity and spirituality. These are considered important to attain moksha or Free State of existence.

Yoga In The Western World

Poster about the Eight

A few gurus, namely Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and Paramahansa Yogananda, brought the knowledge of yoga from India to the United States . It remained a fringe practice for Westerners until facets of yogic philosophy and Hindu symbology were adopted into the mainstream American consciousness during the hippie movement in the 1960s.

Ever heard of a little band called The Beatles ? It wasnt too long after the band traveled to India that yoga found itself deep in the capitalist-industrial-complex, where American corporations saw how much money could be made off of yoga being branded as chic.

This is when yoga was repackaged as a luxury workout rather than a spiritual belief system.

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The Essential Guide: 8 Limbs Of Yoga By Maharishi Patanjali

Around the second century BC, there lived a rishi named Maharshi Patanjali who was the first to systematize the already existing ancient practices of yoga. Considered as the Father of Yoga, his 196 yoga sutras have become the basis of yoga practice today.;

Modern notions of fitness have equated yoga to a practice that only helps us in losing weight, toning different parts of the body, and building muscles, limiting our understanding of this holistic way of life. An unfortunate consequence being that we have lost sight of what yoga is really about – all-round development of the body, mind, and spirit. A tool for us to walk the path of wisdom and enlightenment.

Particularly famous are Rishi Patanjalis Ashtanga yoga or the eight limbs of yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says that these eight limbs of yoga should all develop simultaneously for us to experience Divine consciousness and eternal bliss.

The Ashtanga Yoga Series

In Ashtanga yoga, there are a total of six different series. There is Primary, Intermediary, and four Advanced series of yoga poses. Each of these builds upon the previous one and helps you progress through more difficult poses.

First, let us understand the primary series of Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga.

1. The Primary Series

The Primary Series comprises of yoga asanas you normally practice in a Vinyasa yoga class. However, with Ashtanga yoga, the difference is you follow a sequence that does not change. In the majority of classes, you start with half primary and become proficient with time. The teacher adds more yoga asanas till you master the primary series of this yoga. Henceforth, it is only after possessing knowledge of the primary ones that you are able to pull off the advanced yoga asanas.

Yoga poses in the Primary series of this yoga style build upon one another as you progress through the series. The Primary Series of Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga purifies and tones your body to help bring the focus to your mind.

As the detoxification process moves further, you discover things about yourself that might not be that comfortable and easy to accept. It is a reason why you should learn the 8 limbs under the guidance of a yoga expert.

Now, that you are done with the Primary series; it is time you move onto the next level of Ashtanga 8 limbs yoga practice the Intermediate Series.

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2. The Intermediate Series

3. The Advanced Series

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Samadhi Union With The True Self

Traditionally this eighth and final limb is considered the culmination of the journey the proverbial mountaintop of consciousness.;

Samadhi can be defined as the union of the true self and transcendence of the lower self and personality.;

It can also be defined as a hyperconscious state of no-thought and no-mind that leads to true spiritual freedom.;

Although this might sound quite unattainable to the average person, its actually more attainable than you might think.

Think about it this way:;

Moments of deep knowing and understanding can be perceived as the beginnings of Samadhi.;

Glimmers of heartfelt inspiration and intuition can also be considered Samadhi.;

From a neuroscience perspective, it can be said that cultivating Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi rewires the brain so that there is a union amongst its different parts.;

In his book Mindsight, psychiatrist and UCLA professor Daniel Siegel, M.D. talks about what happens to the brain when meditation and mindfulness are incorporated.;

The middle prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain that calms the fear-driven, reactive, impulsive, and emotionally active centers.;

Through the conscious focus of attention , meditation , mindfulness and self-awareness the PFC is strengthened and its nine main functions are enhanced:;

1) Optimal body regulation

4) Attuned communication

5) Response flexibility

7) Empathy and resonance with others;

8) Insight & intuition

9) Moral awareness and discernment

Yoga is hardly just poses;

Yogapedia Explains The Eight Limbs Of Yoga

The Eight Limbs of Yoga Explained

The Eight Limbs of Yoga include:

  • Yama: five universal, ethical and moral standards to live life by
  • Niyama: five spiritual and self-discipline observances
  • 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
  • Pranayama: breathing exercises which develop control of the breath and are thought to provide long life
  • Pratyahara: control over the senses through the practice of transcending the external world or stimuli, bringing focus inward
  • Dharana: concentration on inner awareness or on a single point by removing all other distractions
  • Dhyana: meditation or contemplation on the Divine, which includes an unbroken flow of concentration and quieting of the mind
  • 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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    Niyama Positive Duties Or Observances

    The second limb, Niyama,;usually refers to duties directed towards ourselves, but can also be considered with our actions towards the outside world. The prefix ni is a Sanskrit verb which means inward or within.There are five Niyamas:;

    Niyamas;are traditionally practised by those who wish to travel further along the Yogic path and are intended to build character. Interestingly, the Niyamas closely relate to the;Koshas,;our sheaths or layers leading from the physical body to the essence within. As youll notice, when we work with the Niyamas from saucha to isvararpranidhana we are guided from the grossest aspects of ourselves to the truth deep within.;

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