As discussed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the 8 limbs of Yoga are a precise and practical set of yogic knowledge divided into eight basic parts. The Eight Limbs of yoga are also famous by the name, ‘Ashtanga Yoga’.
Patanjali Yoga Sutras being the most popular and most practiced basis of yoga and ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ is the core of it. Thus knowing, and following the 8 limbs of yoga is a must for any yogi.
The simultaneous practice of yoga provides your body and mind with the multidimensional approach to finally reach the ultimate, enlightenment. The 196 Sutras of Patanjali yoga sutras are split into four chapters or padas.
The practice of the 8 limbs of yoga comes from the second chapter comprehended as the ‘Sadhana Pada’. Ashtanga which indicates eight refers to Patanjali’s eight limbs or branches of yoga. the main goal of this beautiful knowledge is to make the principles and practices of the yoga formulae more reasonable and practical for all.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga)
Patanjali in his book ‘Yoga Sutras’ talks regarding the ‘8 limbs of Yoga’ called the Ashtanga Yoga described briefly in the following text.
Yama is the first of the 8 limbs of yoga planned in the yoga sutras. It is also sometimes called ‘ the five restraints’ because it represents what one should avoid rising on the spiritual path. Yamas are moral and moral values and five Yamas listed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra are,
- Ahimsa: Non-violence or not hurting other beings
- Satya: Truthfulness
- Asteya: Non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: moving into Bigness: Chastity
- Aparigraha: Non-accumulation, Non-possessiveness
Niyama is the other limb of his religious path as outlined by the ancient sage Patanjali in his yoga sutras. It lists five things you should do to create spiritual progress. They are,
- Saucha: Sanitation or purity of the body
- Santosha: Satisfaction and Contentment
- Tapas: Endurance and Reception
- Swadhaaya: Self-consciousness, and self-study
- Ishwara Pranidhaana- Dedication to and love for the divine
Asana is the physical practice of yoga, which is also generally known as yoga postures. Yet, Asana is not just a single exercise. It is a natural medium through which we can keep the mind calm and balanced.
There is this very attractive quote on asana by Patanjali, “Sthira sukham asanam”, which means, That which is reserved and which is comfortable is asana. In a deeper scenario, Asana extends our sympathy level by shifting even our uncomfortable zone into a pleasant one.
Asana is that which enables us to keep equanimity. Asana is a practice to find support and stability in any kind of posture. In a way, it is the prophet to train the mind to be stable or balanced through body postures.
Prana is the life force, the vital energy needed by our physical and mental layers, for us to survive. It is said that life force energy runs through thousands of subtle energy channels called the ‘Nadis’ and energy centers named ‘Chakras’.
It is very significant that a good quantity and quality of prana flows through the Nadis and chakras as it commands one’s state of mind. Similar to a vehicle, where having a good flow and quality of gas gives better representation. Having a constant, smooth, steady flow and high level of prana keeps the mind calm, positive, and enthusiastic.
Prana refers to the entire life force and Ayama means to regulate or lengthen. Pranayam is a yogic approach to breathing to increase our prana. Thus, with the help of breath, the method or practice increases and improves the quantity and quality of prana and clearing the blockages in Nadis and Chakras. As a result making one more active, enthusiastic, positive, and have a great state of mind.
Pratyahara is the aware-full interiorization of one’s thoughts. The nature of our sense is to move outwards. For instance, everything we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is something occurring outside of us. As a result, even our power that goes into the senses goes outwards.
Thus, Pratyahara is the conscious means of turning our attention and thought inwards by withdrawing our strength from the senses.
Dharana involves stillness of thought in the mind. In a more simplistic term it can be said as having an introspective focus, concentration or one-pointedness thought of mind. Usually, our mind is attacked with various thoughts, emotions, and ideas. It normally swings like a pendulum in the past and the future. Dharan is when our mind is focused on the immediate moment. This step is important for the next limb, Meditation as without Dharana, mediation is not possible.
Dhyana is the method of meditation, which is the art of doing nothing. The state of thought is beautiful and amazing where we are both in deep rest and awareness at the same time. More so, the rest in thought is said to be deeper than the deepest sleep. A calm mind, good concentration, clarity of perception, improvement in communication, inner strength, and relaxation are simple of meditating regularly.
Samadhi is the blissful state of survival that is even believed to be beyond the mind, Dharana, and meditation. It is supposed to be so beautiful that you slip into transcendental state where the feeling of ‘I’ is absent. In a meditation, memory is still conscious but in the state of samadhi, we become free from the clutches of memory.
Thus, Samadhi is the main method that the yogis learn to dive deeper into the self. Samadhi is the difficulty of oneness, where there is no distinction, between the actor of meditation, the act of meditation, and the subject of meditation.
The 8 limbs of yoga guide one another, but their progression isn’t mean to be rigid. Through the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali has implemented the highest knowledge to reach the ultimate. thus, Ashtanga Yoga is the heart of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, thus, standing tall as one of the best and the most trained forms of yoga even today.