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    The 8 Limbs of Yoga explained

    Read about the 8 limbs of yoga according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which offer guidance into how to live a purposeful life.


    The 8 Limbs of Yoga explained

    The 8 Limbs of Yoga explained The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali refers to 8 limbs of yoga, each of which offers guidance on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. Learn about each one and how to incorporate them into your practice.

    Facebook Twitter Pinterest WhatsApp by Emma Newlyn

    The word ‘yoga’ means to connect, unite or ‘yoke’. The thing we look to connect to is the true Self, also known as the ‘divine essence’, ‘ultimate self’, or atman. You might also think of this as the soul.

    If that way of thinking doesn’t resonate with you, then consider that the word yoga can also mean separation or disentanglement. The thing we’re disentangling from is whatever stops us from feeling free, as the ultimate goal of any yoga practice is to attain moksha, meaning liberation or freedom.

    So how does one go about attaining this freedom through yoga? Does it come at the cost of an expensive pair of yoga pants? Can you reach it by signing up to a detox retreat or finally touching your toes? Probably not…

    According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is an eight-fold path leading to liberation, known as the ‘Ashtanga Yoga System’ or ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ (the word ‘ashta’ means ‘eight’ and ‘anga’ means ‘limb’).

    What are the 8 Limbs of Yoga?

    1. YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows

    2. NIYAMA – Positive duties or observances

    3. ASANA – Posture

    4. PRANAYAMA – Breathing Techniques

    5. PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal

    6. DHARANA – Focused Concentration

    7. DHYANA – Meditative Absorption

    8. SAMADHI – Bliss or Enlightenment

    The 8 Limbs of Yoga Program

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    1. YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows

    This first limb, Yama, refers to vows, disciplines or practices that are primarily concerned with the world around us, and our interaction with it. While the practice of yoga can indeed increase physical strength and flexibility and aid in calming the mind, what’s the point if we’re still rigid, weak and stressed-out in day-to-day life?

    There are five Yamas:

    Ahimsa (non-violence),

    Satya (truthfulness),

    Asteya (non-stealing),

    Brahmacharya (right use of energy), and

    Aparigraha (non-greed or non-hoarding).

    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 Iyengar’s 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 we’ve practised, we can all aim to instil the Yamas within us.

    Read more about the Yamas and Niyamas

    2. 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:

    saucha (cleanliness),

    santosha (contentment),

    tapas (discipline or burning desire or conversely, burning of desire),

    svadhyaya (self-study or self-reflection, and study of spiritual texts), and

    isvarapranidaha (surrender to a higher power).

    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 you’ll 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.

    3. ASANA – Posture

    The physical aspect of yoga is the third step on the path to freedom, and if we’re being honest, the word asana here doesn’t refer to the ability to perform a handstand or an aesthetically impressive backbend, it means ‘seat’ – specifically the seat you would take for the practice of meditation. The only alignment instruction Patanjali gives for this asana is “sthira sukham asanam”, the posture should be steady and comfortable.

    While traditional texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika list many postures such as Padmasana (lotus pose) and Virasana (hero pose) suitable for meditation, this text also tells us that the most important posture is, in fact, sthirasukhasana – meaning, ‘a posture the practitioner can hold comfortably and motionlessness’.

    The idea is to be able to sit in comfort so we’re not ‘pulled’ by aches and pains of the body, or restlessness due to an uncomfortable position. Perhaps this is something to consider in your next yoga class if you always tend to choose the ‘advanced’ posture offered, rather than the one your body is able to attain: “In how many poses are we really comfortable and steady?”

    4. PRANAYAMA – Breathing Techniques

    The word Prana refers to ‘energy’ or ‘life source’. It can be used to describe the very essence that keeps us alive, as well as the energy in the universe around us. Prana also often describes the breath, and by working with the way we breathe, we affect the mind in a very real way.

    स्रोत : www.ekhartyoga.com

    Ashtanga (eight limbs of yoga)

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    Ashtanga (eight limbs of yoga)

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    Not to be confused with Ashtanga vinyasa yoga.

    A statue of Patanjali, the author of the , practicing dhyana (meditation), one of the eight limbs of yoga that he defines

    Ashtanga yoga (Sanskrit: अष्टाङ्गयोग, romanized: , "the eight parts of yoga") is Patanjali's classification of classical yoga, as set out in his . He defined the eight limbs as yamas (abstinences), niyama (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption).

    The eight limbs form a sequence from the outer to the inner. Postures, important in modern yoga as exercise, form just one limb of Patanjali's scheme; he states only that they must be steady and comfortable. The main aim is , discernment of , the witness-conscious, as separate from , the cognitive apparatus, and disentanglement of from its muddled defilements.


    1 Definition of yoga

    2 Eight limbs 2.1 1. Yamas 2.2 2. Niyamas 2.3 3. Āsana 2.4 4. Prānāyāma 2.5 5. Pratyāhāra 2.6 6. Dhāraṇā 2.7 7. Dhyāna 2.8 8. Samādhi

    3 Soteriological goal:

    4 See also 5 Notes 6 References 7 Sources 8 Further reading

    Definition of yoga[edit]

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    This article contains Indic text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks or boxes, misplaced vowels or missing conjuncts instead of Indic text.

    Patanjali begins his treatise by stating the purpose of his book in the first sutra, followed by defining the word "yoga" in his second sutra of Book 1:[2]

    योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः ॥२॥

    —  1.2

    This terse definition hinges on the meaning of three Sanskrit terms. I. K. Taimni translates it as "Yoga is the inhibition () of the modifications () of the mind ()".[3] Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra as "Yoga is restraining () the mind-stuff () from taking various forms ()."[4] When the mind is stilled, the seer or real Self is revealed:

    1.3. Then the Seer is established in his own essential and fundamental nature.

    1.4. In other states there is assimilation (of the Seer) with the modifications (of the mind).[5]

    Eight limbs[edit]

    Further information: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

    Patanjali's eight limbs of yoga

    Patanjali set out his definition of yoga in the as having eight limbs (अष्टाङ्ग , "eight limbs") as follows:

    The eight limbs of yoga are yama (abstinences), niyama (observances), asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption)."[6]

    The eightfold path of Patanjali's yoga consists of a set of prescriptions for a morally disciplined and purposeful life, of which asanas (yoga postures) form only one limb.[7]

    1. Yamas[edit]

    Main article: Yamas

    Yamas are ethical rules in Hinduism and can be thought of as moral imperatives (the "don'ts"). The five yamas listed by Patanjali in 2.30 are:[8]

    Ahimsa (अहिंसा): Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings[9]

    Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood[9][10]

    Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing[9]

    Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity,[10] marital fidelity or sexual restraint[11]

    Aparigraha (अपरिग्रह): non-avarice,[9] non-possessiveness[10]

    Patanjali, in Book 2, states how and why each of the above self-restraints helps in an individual's personal growth. For example, in verse II.35, Patanjali states that the virtue of nonviolence and non-injury to others (Ahimsa) leads to the abandonment of enmity, a state that leads the yogi to the perfection of inner and outer amity with everyone, everything.[12][13]

    2. Niyamas[edit]

    Main article: Niyama

    The second component of Patanjali's Yoga path is niyama, which includes virtuous habits and observances (the "dos").[14][15] Sadhana Pada Verse 32 lists the niyamas as:[16]

    Shaucha (शौच): purity, clearness of mind, speech and body[17]

    Santosha (संतोष): contentment, acceptance of others, acceptance of one's circumstances as they are in order to get past or change them, optimism for self[18]

    Tapas (तपस्): persistence, perseverance, austerity, asceticism, self-discipline[19][20][21][22]

    Svadhyaya (स्वाध्याय): study of Vedas, study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self's thoughts, speech and actions[20][23]

    Ishvarapranidhana (ईश्वरप्रणिधान): contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality)[18][24]

    As with the Yamas, Patanjali explains how and why each of the Niyamas helps in personal growth. For example, in verse II.42, Patanjali states that the virtue of contentment and acceptance of others as they are (Santosha) leads to the state where inner sources of joy matter most, and the craving for external sources of pleasure ceases.[25]

    3. Āsana[edit]

    स्रोत : en.wikipedia.org

    Yoga Philosophy Quiz / Test

    Yoga has been with us since the Cradle of Civilisation started in the Indus Valley which is over 6000 years old. Yoga involves more than just asanas postures, the ultimate aim of Yoga is much more profound. Take the quiz and find out! - test your knowledge in this quiz! (Author wiseye)

    Trivia Quiz

    Yoga has been with us since the 'Cradle of Civilisation' started in the Indus Valley which is over 6000 years old. Yoga involves more than just 'asanas' (postures), the ultimate aim of Yoga is much more profound. Take the quiz and find out!

    Home » Humanities Trivia » Eastern Philosophy Author wiseye Updated

    Dec 03 21 # Qns10 Plays762Complete answer key & fun facts are displayed below the quiz.

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    Answer Key and Interesting Information From This Quiz

    What is the meaning of the word 'yoga'?Union.

    The term 'yoga' is derived from the Sanskrit word of 'yuj' which means to unite (presumably with God or the 'Eternal Spirit').

    There are eight stages of training for a yogi to go through in order to reach 'moksha' (release). What is the final stage called?Samadhi.

    Samadhi is a state at which the mind of the human is separated from our soul thus making our soul pure and free of matter; we will be consequently liberated from 'samsara' - the cycle of birth and death.

    What is the name of the authorative text on yoga philosophy, written over 2000 years ago by a sage called Patanjali?Yoga Sutra.

    The text discusses mainly about how yoga allows the union of soul with the divine through 'dhyana' (meditation). Also known as 'Yoga Of Eight Limbs' (Astanga Yoga).

    What is the name of the text that forms part of 'Mahabharata', also known as 'Song Of The Lord'?Bhagavad Gita.

    'Bhagavad Gita' contains 18 chapters and is mainly a dialogue between Arjuna (a disciple) and Lord Krishna (Master/God) on the verge of a battle where they discussed the Yoga of knowledge (jnana), action (karma) and devotion (bhakti).

    'Yama' and 'Niyama' are part of what kind of practice?Moral and Ethics.

    'Yama' means self-control and discipline. 'Niyama' means virtue. Both of them form the practice of morality and ethics. They are also known as the 'Hindu Commandments', since there are ten of them, and they are very similar to the Ten Commandments of the Bible.

    According to Yoga philosophy, the universe is made up of two entities, the first one is matter known as 'prakrti'. What is the other one known as?Purusa.

    Purusa is the spiritual entity. Purusa and Prakrti results in creation, since perpetuity is one of their characteristics, consequently there's no 'Big Bang' theory. The creation follows a pattern of repeated birth and destruction.

    There are four different types or states of consciousness. What is the super-conscious state also known as?Turiya.

    'Turiya' is a state at which one is super-conscious - not in a state of wake, sleep or dreamless sleep. Also known as 'nirvana' by Buddhists.

    What is the meaning of the word 'Hatha'?Sun and Moon.

    'Ha' means sun while 'Tha' means moon, very similar to Yin and Yang of Taoism.

    Under Yoga philosophy, mind represents matter not spirit.True.

    Matter covers our spiritual self just like a cloth on a lamp, in the same way our mind prevents our soul from being 'liberated'. Our soul is truly 'liberated' only when we achieve a state where we desire nothing and are free from being slaves to our senses.

    What is the name of the most famous part of the 'Vedas'?Upanisads & Upanishads & Upanishad & Upanisad.

    It discusses the relevation of soul through 'dhyana' (meditation). It also introduces the sacred syllable 'AUM' - the supreme reality to the world.

    Source: Author wiseye

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