The Eight Limbs of Yoga

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.

Read the full article at Yoga Journal here: The Eight Limbs of Yoga

1. Yama – The first limb, yama, deals with one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. 

2. Niyama – The second limb, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances.

3. Asana – The postures practiced in yoga, comprise the third limb. In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit, the care of which is an important stage of our spiritual growth.

4. Pranayama – Generally translated as breath control, the literal translation of pranayama, “life force extension,” yogis believe that it not only rejuvenates the body but actually extends life itself.

5. Pratyahara – The fifth limb, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli.

6. Dharana – As each stage prepares us for the next, the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana. Having relieved ourselves of outside distractions, we can now deal with the distractions of the mind itself. No easy task!

7. Dhyana – Meditation or contemplation, the seventh stage of ashtanga, is the uninterrupted flow of concentration, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all.

8. Samadhi – Patanjali describes this eighth and final stage of ashtanga, samadhi, as a state of ecstasy. The meditator comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine, an interconnectedness with all living things.

 

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