Introduction to the 8 Limbs of Yoga

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोध
yogaś-citta-vr̥tti-nirodhaḥ


One of the most well-known Sutras from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is the 2nd: yogas chitta vrtti nirodhah – this can be interpretated as ‘yoga is the cessation of the thoughts in the mind’.

It is the essence of what Yoga can help us to achieve – freedom from the desires that draw us away from our natural state of peace.

The Yoga Sutras were compiled by Patanjali – a great sage in India, believed to have lived sometime between 500 and 200 B.C.. Renowned as being one of the most important texts in Indian tradition and the foundation of classical Yoga, the Yoga Sutras include the practice of Ashtanga Yoga (not to be confused with the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga which was created later on).

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Ashta is the Sanskrit word for eight and anga roughly translates to limb, therefore it can be seen as an eight-fold path to help us cultivate a life of purpose, with the ultimate goal of achieving enlightenment or Samadhi.

For those who wish to follow the pathway of Ashtanga Yoga, it provides core principles that guide us through every aspect of life- one of them being the physical practice of Yogasana of course- but also extending out to include how we treat others, how we treat our selves, and how to train our minds so we gradually gain control and awareness over our thoughts, senses, desires and emotions.

Below is an overview of the 8 limbs of Yoga; each one will be expanded upon in its own article.

1. Yama – right living with others / social restraints

2. Niyama – self-discipline / right living with ourselves

3. Asana – body postures

4. Pranayama – control of the breath

5. Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses

6. Dhyana – concentration

7. Dharana – meditation

8. Samadhi – enlightenment / unity with the object of meditation

Here are a couple of books I’d also recommend reading if you are interested in learning more…

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Four Chapters on Freedom: Commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Saraswati Swami Satyananda


Published by Mary Barry

Yoga instructor

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