The eight limbs of yoga (The 8 Limbed path) were first outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra–a collection of 196 ancient Sanskrit texts written by the sage Patanjali around 400 BCE. The 8 limbs are referred to as Ashtanga (eight-limbed Ashta = 8) yoga and they include: yama (ethics), niyama (self-discipline), asana (posture/physical practice), pranayama (breathing techniques), pratyahara (withdrawal/sense control), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation/contemplation) and samadhi/enlightenment. These eight limbs form the foundation of most modern day yoga practices.
Yama is concerned with ethical principles such as non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing etc., while niyama is focused on self-discipline such as cleanliness, contentment etc. Asanas involve physical postures that help to strengthen your body while calming the mind. Pranayama consists of breathing exercises that help to increase your lung capacity while also promoting relaxation. Pratyahara involves withdrawing from external stimuli so that you can focus more deeply on yourself – this could include closing your eyes or focusing on one particular sound or sensation in order to ‘tune out’ from the outside world. Dharana involves concentration or single-pointed focus on something such as a mantra or image; dhyana refers to meditation which is achieved through deep concentration; samadhi refers to the state of enlightenment which can be experienced through regular practice of all eight limbs together.
Understanding the 8 limbs of yoga provides a great foundation for any yogi looking to deepen their practice. Learning about these ancient teachings helps us understand why we do certain things during our practice – it gives us an insight into why we move our bodies in certain ways and how those movements affect us mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Ultimately, if we want to reap all the benefits that come with practicing yoga regularly then it’s important that we understand not just what we’re doing but why we’re doing it also. I look forwards to teaching and exploring the 8 limbs in greater detail with you in the near future!