Eight limbs of yoga
Probably, you are already practicing yoga, and you are enjoying its benefits to your health. Because of this, you might decide to extend its effect on your entire life through sutras of Patanjali, the eight limbs of yoga. Patanjali introduced the eight limbs of yoga, to assist us to enhance the purpose and meaning of life.
Patanjali's yoga sutras act as the guidelines that guide you to have a “meaningful and purposeful life.” They are the prescription of both ethical and moral conduct, as well as self-discipline. The yoga sutras direct your attention towards your health and well-being. Additionally, they assist you to recognize the spiritual facets of your nature. This article will highlight all the limbs of yoga and their meaning.
The first limb of yoga, which deals with a person’s sense of integrity as well as their ethical standards. Yama focuses on a person’s behavior and how one conducts him or herself in life. The Yamas are widespread practices among the eight limbs of yoga. They relate best to the famous golden rule—“do to others what you want them to do to you.”
The following are five yamas:
Niyama is the second limb of yoga. It emphasizes spiritual observances and self-discipline. Typical examples of niyama include:
- Going church or temple services regularly
- Developing individual meditation practices
- Sharing the grace before meals
Practicing Niyama helps us to have the self-discipline we need. Also, it reminds us of the benefits of our actions and inactions.
Asana is a posture or movements that are practiced in yoga, and they encompass the third limb or yoga. It was originated to help yogis to get in physical shape in preparation for meditation, to be able to sit for a more extended period of times in meditation. The practice of asanas helps us develop discipline, and improve our concentration skills. These are very important for meditation.
Asana and pranayama are widely practiced in the west these days and Asana is the third limb of the eight limbs. Asana with Pranayama breathing exercises is the physical movements of hatha yoga. Asana translates to "seat" It is said originally the only posture in yoga was a comfortable seat taken for a long period of Dhyana (meditation).
Prana "life force" is the fourth limb of yoga, which has a general translation of breath control. Pranayama techniques assist us to gain control over the breathing process while recognizing the relationship between your mind, breath, and emotions.
This fourth limb of yoga has a literal translation—“life extension”. Therefore, yogis believe that pranayama helps in rejuvenating our bodies and “extending our life.” Yogis can practice pranayama as an individual technique. Also, it is possible to integrate pranayama into your regular asana practice routine.
"You don't live by years, you live by breath of life. As many breaths you are granted, when they finish you go." -Yogi Bhajan
Prana is the external manifestation of the Breath. By regulating the breathing, we can gain mastery over the prana within and without. When we achieve mastery over the prana, we have mastery over the inner nature, too, because it is the prana that creates all the movements in an individual—physical and mental.
Pratyahara is the fifth limb of yoga. It means gaining control over external powers, or withdrawal of sensory perfection. This is the limb where you make a deliberate effort to withdraw your consciousness from the external world. Pratyahara assists you to direct all your attention internally while remaining clearly aware of your senses but cultivating a detachment from these senses.
"the inspiration you seek is already within you. Be silent and listen" - Rumi
The practice of pratyahara gives you the opportunity to withdraw and have a look at yourself. The withdrawal assists you to monitor your cravings. That is the habits that might be harmful to your health, and the patterns that might interfere with your inner growth.
Each limb of yoga prepares you for the next limb. Practicing pratyahara creates a “perfect environment” for Dharana, which is the sixth limb of yoga helps in promoting concentration. Since pratyahara assists you to relieve yourself from the external distractions, you are now able to deal with all the distractions in your mind.
This is not an easy task. Practicing concentration helps you to learn how to control your thinking process. You can slow it down by focusing on one mental object. This can be a silent recurrence of a particular sound, image of a holy being, or a specific energetic focus in your body. The previous limbs of yoga assist you in developing concentration powers.
Your focus now begins to shift as you perfect the different degrees of a specific breathing technique or physical posture. Pratyahara helps you to become self-observant. But in Dharana, you get to focus all your attention on one point. Dharana causes extended concentration periods, which lead to meditation naturally.
This is the seventh limb of yoga, and it means contemplation or practice of meditation. It assists you to have uninterrupted concentration moments. While Dharana and dhyana might appear to be the same, there is a thin line between their meaning. While practicing Dharana, you focus all your attention on one point. But in Dhyana, you are in a condition where you are aware, but not focusing on anything.
During this stage, your mind is quieted, and in those moments of quietness, the mind can produce a few thoughts. Interestingly, the mind can fail to produce any thought in Dhyana. You require a very significant amount of stamina to achieve such state of tranquility. However, you shouldn’t give up if you fail to achieve the stillness you desired.
Even though it might appear to be an impossible or difficult task, always remember that yoga is not a onetime thing, but a process. While you might not achieve the ideal consciousness of dhyana, you always benefit whenever you take your time to practice this limb.
Samadhi - Union with divine is the eighth and final limb of yoga, and many people consider it a state of happiness or ecstasy. Samadhi allows you to merge with your point of concentration and surpass your self-altogether.
Here, you can realize a deep link to the Divine—which connects you to all living things. This realization gives you peace that exceeds all understanding—the ecstasy experience, and being connected to the universe.
It might not be easy to achieve this goal. But if you examine what you want to get out of life, then freedom, joy, and fulfillment will be on your list of wishes, desires, and hopes. Samadhi makes you realize what it means to be a person without differences, and how you can enjoy the pure awareness of your identity.
Achieving Samadhi might be a challenging task. Therefore, Yogateket suggests that you master the practice of yoga asanas and pranayama
first, as you prepare for dharana. Both asanas and pranayama affect your mental activities, thus creating space in your full mind. However, if you can achieve Dharana, then Dyhana and Samadhi will not be a challenge for you.
Deeper learning at Yogateket
You don't have to worry if you don't know all the limbs. You can sign up for our online courses for yoga classes and yoga poses, get the yoga mind and learn these limbs from here. The yoga classes taught online can go a long way helping you to learn these limbs of yoga.
We have yoga videos
with yoga sutra of Patanjali and the path of yoga, Learn philosophy, how to control the breath with pranayama breathing techniques, practice asanas of Ashtanga yoga for inner peace and body and mind.
Chant the opening mantras with Clare.
A brief overview of the yoga sutras, and of Shruti Parampara, the traditional method of learning to chant the yoga sutras.