What are the 8 limbs of yoga (Ashtanga yoga) According to Patanjali

What are the 8 limbs of yoga According to Patanjali

Ashtanga, the 8 limbs of yoga, is Patanjali’s classification of classical yoga, as set out in his yoga sutras. He defined the eight limbs as,

1.Yama (Moral Disiciplines)

2. Niyama (Rules of personal behaviour)

3. Asana (Physical Posture)

4. Pranayama (Breathing techniques)

5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses)

6. Dharana (Concentration)

7. Dhyan (Meditation)

8. Samadhi (Pure Bliss)

Ashtanga Yoga is about Karma Yoga. If you want to do this yoga for stress or tension, then it will not help.

8 limbs of Yoga (Ashtanga yoga) is the practice of erasing oneself and attaining samadhi. In 8 limbs of yoga, Maharishi Patanjali has given 8 organs to achieve samadhi from karma yoga.

In which 3 limbs are in relation to the body (Yama, Niyama, Asana) 3 limbs are in relation to the mind (Pranayama, Pratihara, Dharna) and one limb is in relation to jiva (Meditation).

The first part is Yama which is from Saiyam (Moderation). It means external discipline. When we are born, then we come in contact with many people and different things, here we have been told how to behave.

Mahashri Patanjali has given 5 disciplines in Yama.

1. Yama (Moral disciplines)

Ahinsa (Harmlessness)

The word ahinsa literally mean not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever.

Ahinsa is, however, more than just lack of violence as adapted in yoga. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things.

Satya (Truthfulness)

Satya Means “Speaking the Truth”, but it is not necessary to always speak the truth because there are some truths that can harm others.

We should consider what we are saying, how we are saying, is it not harming anyone.

If speaking the truth has a negative effect then it is better not to say anything

The Mahabharata, the great Indian epic, says: “Speak the truth which is pleasant. Do not speak unpleasant truths.  Do not tell lies that harm others. That is the eternal law, the dharma.”

Please note that this does not mean speak lie.There is a difference between saying nothing and saying lies.

Asteya (Non-stealing)

Asteya means “Do not be a thief in nature”

This means that if someone trusts us and gives something, then we should not take advantage of it. We are to refrain from taking that which is not ours by right of consciousness and karma.

Brahmacharya (Sense-control)

Brahmacharya is a movement toward the essential truth. It is mostly used in the sense of control, such as in relation to sexual activity.

Brahmacharya teaches us that we should make relations that promote our society of truth.

If sensual pleasure is a part of our life, then we should take care that we do not stray from our direction.

Avoid relationships that makes us deviate from finding the eternal truth. There are also ways to follow the truth and control the senses and your desires.

Brahmacharya does not necessarily imply celibacy. Rather, it means that the meaning of truth is to be understood and to fulfill its responsibility..

Aparigraha (Do not storing over- accumulation )

Parigraha means “to take” or “to seize.” Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of a situation or act greedy.

We should take what is ours. Do not assert the rights of someone else, if we do this, then we take the rights of someone else.

2. Niyama : (Observances)

The niyamas are rules of personal behaviour. In 8 Limbs of Yoga, Maharishi Patanjali explains 5 disciplines like,

Sauca (Purity)

The first niyama is sauca , meaning purity and cleanliness. Sauca has both an inner and an outer aspect.

Internal cleanliness means cleanliness inside the body, purify our mind.
And to cleanse the mind from inside, regularly do asanas or pranayam.

Asanas tones the entire body and removes toxins while pranayama cleanses our lungs, oxygenates our blood and purifies our nerves. ”

Physical cleanliness of the body is a very good thing, but it is more important that our anger, greed, pride or whatever makes our mind unstable, it is important to remove it.

Santosa  (Contentment)
The second niyama is to be satisfied with what we have.

Facing the difficulties that come in life, you should live life and adopt it, do not be afraid of it.

We should accept that there is a purpose for everything – yoga calls it karma – and we cultivate contentment ‘to accept what happens’.

This means that we should be happy with what we have and we should not be sad about what we do not have.

Tapah (Self Desicipline)

Tapah means to face whatever troubles you have in moving forward in life.
Do not stop even if there is a physical or mental problem.

While understanding Yogic theory and practicing some yogic asanas or while doing your job, there may be some physical trouble.

One should conscious of it and try to look at the hardships from a positive perspective. It’s the practice of tapa.

Tapa is also known as perseverance. persistence is the key of success.

Svadhyaya  (Self study)

The fourth niyama is svadhyaya. Sva means “self’ adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination”.

Swadhyay can be said by any activity in which self-consciousness is done.

It means that we have to get soul awakening in our efforts and activities.

svarapranidhana means to deliver all your works at the feet of God. So that whatever you do, you can be a witness to God.

It is the recognition that the spiritual suffuses everything and through our attention and care we can attune ourselves with our role as part of the Creator.

For practice, we should set a time for every day and think in our mind that there is a God who is guiding our lives.

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3. Asana (Physical Posture)

Patanjali’s idea about asana was that asana is a naturally occurring & is an unforced state of stillness, Although Patanjali described only meditative posture in Yoga Sutra.

We practice many twisting, bending and lifting types yoga pose in modern yoga, these were not part of ancient yoga.

Our body and mind are never in the same position. Sometimes our body remains stills, then mind wandered.

The practice of asana gives our body and mind a right to control over this wondering awareness. Hence we drive the awareness more in with further practices of next limbs.

4. Pranayama (Breathing techniques)

Pranayama is the practice to take control of the prana- life force.

It consists of different exercises of breath which allow us to move, hold or expand Prana in different regions of the body. 

Pranayama uses breath as a tool to play with Prana, with Prana awareness moves.

5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses)

Pratyahara is the aware-full interiorization of one’s senses. The nature of our senses is to flow outwards.

As we see, touch, smell, taste, hear these things are also happening outside.
This is why our energy that goes into the senses also goes out.

Thus, Pratyahara is the conscious process of turning our attention and thoughts inwards by withdrawing our energy from the senses.

6. Dharana (Concentration)

Dharana means stillness of thought in the mind. In a simple term it can be said as having an introspective focus, concentration or one pointedness thought of mind.

Usually, our mind is bombarded with various thoughts, emotions, and ideas. It usually swings like a pendulum in the past and the future.

Dharana is when our mind is focused on the present moment. This step is imperative for the next limb, “Meditation”, as without Dharana, meditation is not possible.

7. Dhyan (Meditation)

Meditation is the stage where our mind and body wholly absorbed into the focus & unaffected from the external influences (In deep meditation).

We can’t force our-self to come into the meditation, but it’s a naturally occurring state. If you’re thinking, I’m meditating’ during your practice, it’s not meditation.

Meditation is when you can able to find a gap between 2 consecutive thoughts, a gap of nothingness for an extended period.

8. Samadhi (Pure Bliss)

Samadhi means merging with the dive and is a stage of super consciousness

It is the final step in 8 limbs of yoga to the way of experiencing the Self-realization.

Up to this stage, we have been established a control connection with the outer & inner world through different practices.

Samadhi is the state where the mind stops modifying any incoming or present thought and we start feeling the unmodified experience.

One thing Patanjali mentioned in Yoga Sutra about Samadhi is that ‘Samadhi isn’t a permanent’ until one wholly detached from the desires, fear or any worldly attachments.


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