The Eight Limbs

13 Dec

eight limbs

The eight limbs – sometimes referred to as the eight steps toward True Yoga – are outlined in the second chapter, or pada, of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is a foundational text of yoga, and a key component of Indian philosophy. The eight limbs are, in fact, the broad structural framework of yoga itself, and are often described as a “path” toward the union between mind, body and spirit that the practice of yoga inspires amongst its practitioners.

Importantly, only one of the eight limbs pertains to physical postures and exercise. The other seven focus heavily on mediation, spirituality and the cultivation of wisdom. Our training begins with the study of the eight limbs because of their multifaceted nature. For in concentrating on the eight limbs, we automatically begin to cultivate the mind-set and spirituality of a competent yoga teacher. As you study the eight limbs, reflect upon how you might incorporate these principles into your daily life, and consider how you might convey this spiritual wisdom to your students.

These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. The limbs are practical guides to a person’s personal development to achieve the harmony of the mind, the body and the spirit which leads to Samadhi or enlightenment. They are limbs in the sense that they all belong to the same body of teachings and each is essential, but they are steps in the sense that there is logical order to them and to how they must be approached. Upon practicing all eight limbs of yoga it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each limb relates to an aspect of achieving a healthy and fulfilling life, and each builds upon the one before it.

The eight limbs of the Yoga Sutras are:

Yama – or universal morality

Niyama – or personal observances and observations

Asanas – or body postures

Pranayama – or control of breath

Pratyahara – or control of the senses

Dharana – or cultivating of inner perceptual awareness

Dhyana – or devotion to, and meditation on the divine

Samadhi – or union with the divine


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