THE 8 LIMBS OF YOGA - a brief insight

Yoga is so much more than the asana we practise in a class. It is fundamental to anyone interested in yoga to understand that yoga is actually a way of life; it is about living in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole.

Yoga originated in India thousands of years ago and at first teachings were mostly in the form of meditation rather than a physical practise. The foundations of yoga philosophy were written down in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, approximately 200 AD. He described an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows: 


1 Yama :  Social disciplines

2 Niyama :  Personal observances

3 Asanas :  Body postures

4 Pranayama :  Breathing exercises, and control of prana (energy)

5 Pratyahara :  Withdrawal of the senses

6 Dharana :  Concentration of the mind on the Self

7 Dhyana : Concentration and energy on a sole object. 

8 Samadhi : Superconscious state achieved via meditation. 


The first 2 deal with social and personal attitudes: See whether you can adopt these into your life!


YAMAS - Social Disciplines 


AHIMSA - Have compassion for all living things. Do not harm, injure, be jealous or cruel by word or deed, to others and yourself.

ASTEYA - Be honest. Do not steal, never take advantage of anyones trust. 

SATYA - Honest communication. Speak the truth but only if not harmful or hurtful to others. Better to say nothing than lie.

APARIGRAHA - Non covertness -  do not want what is not yours. Don’t be greedy.

BRAMACHARYA - Non-sensuality, self-restraint; do not be distracted or diverted by temptation. Control of your senses.


NIYAMAS - Personal Observances 


SAUCHA - Cleanliness and purity, both of the body but also the mind. Look after yourself.

SANTOSHA - Contentment. Be happy with what you have in life and do your best.

TAPAS - Discipline to use our energy. Keep fit and healthy, either via food, lifestyle, asana or pranayama. 

SVADHYAYA - Self study. Keep learning, go on courses, workshops, ready more. Learn about oneself and be centred through a daily meditation practise.

ISVARA PRANIDHANA - Recognition or devotion to a god or simply commit to your yoga practise and embrace its benifits.


Some of these disciplines are easier to follow than others but even reminding yourself of them can help to change the way you think or behave to become a more rounded and centred human being. Take some of these into your practise, such a Santosha, being happy with your body and realising its limitations; Ahimsa, do not over do it! Yoga should not be a competition - enjoy and be content with your own pracitse. 


Yoga means 'to join' or 'to yoke', so remember that by bringing together some or all of the 8 limbs in your life, this will lead you in the right direction towards the ultimate goal of yoga - self-development and self-realization.