Yoga Sutras - The Eight Limbs of Yoga Lifestyle

Yoga Sutra – Yoga is not just a fitness tradition, it is a lifestyle. And the guidelines to this yogic lifestyle are prescribed in the Yoga Sutra, penned by Sage Patanjali, the father of modern yoga.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali highlight eight aspects that encompass a yoga lifestyle. These are known as the eight limbs of yoga. These paths address and develop an individual’s moral, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth, allowing for a more complete life experience and the ultimate quest towards enlightenment.

The eight limbs of yoga

The following eight folds form Patanjali’s yoga sutras:

Universal Morality and Ethics or Yama – The first limb is Yama. It guides ethical behavior and instills a sense of integrity and moral social conduct in the follower. It preaches compassion towards others and inculcates a message of peace and honesty. To do so, one needs to follow the five directives of yama. These are non-violence, honesty, celibacy, non-stealing, and avoiding materialism.

Personal Observance or Niyama – The second limb is Niyama. The word ‘Niyama’ translates as ‘Rules.’ It refers to the rules that guide personal observance. Observing this limb allows and helps us to build self discipline, which in turn allows for greater personal growth. To achieve this, one must follow the directives of niyama. These are purity, contentment, austerity, study, and surrender to God.

Postures or Asanas – The third limb is known as Asanas. This is one of the most well known limbs of the yoga sutras. It refers to the physical aspect of yoga – the holding and practicing of yoga postures. Yoga postures are designed to address the body’s problem, treating them at the root and allowing for a healthier lifestyle, and maintaining the body’s health. In addition to physical fitness, practicing asanas regularly inculcates self discipline as well as focus and concentration.

Breathing Techniques or Pranayama – The fourth limb is Pranayama. Like asanas, pranayama too is a well known yogic concept. It refers to the control of breath. Breathing fully, monitoring breath and controlling it, allows an individual to develop and maintain good health, physical, mental and emotional. It is a source of internal purification, energy and calm.

Control of Senses or Pratyahara – The fifth limb is Pratyahara. It refers to a withdrawal of sense. Pratyahara teaches you how to withdraw from external disturbances and instead tune all that attention and energy inwards. It allows you to commit fully to your practice without being distracted by environmental elements.

Concentration or Dharana – The sixth limb is Dharana. It refers to training the mind to concentrate, to focus on a single point without constant interruption and wavering in the face of distraction. This is a difficult concept to ingrain. It requires patience and the strength to still and clear the mind. It also helps to develop mediation skills, serving as a stepping stone.

Meditation or Dhyana – The seventh limb is Dhyana. It brings the practice of meditation to the fore. Meditation is a process of clearing one’s mind of clutter and chaos and channeling energy and concentration onto a single point of focus. Meditation teaches the mind to regain control. It also helps the mind on to a spiritual path in the search of a higher truth.

Enlightenment or Samadhi – The eighth, and the last, limb is Samadhi. This is the ultimate path in the practice to yoga, a state of complete and absolute bliss. It involves the ability to transcend the material and earthly ways through meditation and touch upon a higher plane. It allows the individual to connect with the universe.