The eight limbs of yoga were outlined by the sage named Patanjali around 250 B.C. Although yoga is an excellent physical and mental workout, this ancient practice was designed to deliver even more goodness to the world than yoga pants. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali describe the eight limbs of Yoga. Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras to offer directions on how to live a meaningful life. As the name indicates, this form of yoga consists of eight limbs. It is unlike hatha yoga, which starts with a posture, and vinyasa yoga, which is based on movement with the breath. Ashtanga yoga, as well as Raja yoga, involves the practice of these eight limbs. Ashtanga, literally “eight,” refers to Patanjali’s eight limbs or branches of yoga. By practicing each branch, practitioners can live a more disciplined life to minimize suffering. To transcend ego and achieve self-realization, we can use the Eight Limbs of Yoga as a template.
The Idea of Yoga by Patanjali
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj”, which means as:
- “yoking – the mind to the source of Divinity”
- “union – communion with God”
- “to join together”
It is often that when a yoga teacher in training learns the essence of this word, it means we are celebrating the union of mind, body, soul, and spirit. In many cases, we are not told the reason why this is in our interests. To find that out, we must go even further back in history. Through the ages, Yogis have pondered the question of how we can transcend human suffering. Patanjali was no different. His Eight Limbs of Yoga serve as a template for how we can transcend the confines of our ego and reach self-realization.
The Patanjali Sutras
The word sutra means “to thread or weaves i.e to weave knowledge”. Patanjali originally divided his Sutras into four sections (or padas). Yoga practice comes from section two, referred to as the Sadhana Pada. Ashtanga means “eight” and refers to Patanjali’s eight limbs or branches of yoga. Through practicing these limbs, Patanjali aims to help the practitioner live a more disciplined life and alleviate suffering.
Through these practices, Patanjali hopes that we can still our minds and merge with the divine. As we awaken to our divine essence, we can live a life of authenticity, as we can discern who we are and what our purpose in life is. To know right from wrong, all we have to do is look within.
Benefits of Eight Limbs of Yoga
The benefits of practicing Eight Limbs of Yoga are as numerous, every single one of these limbs serves as a guide on how to live your life with purpose. Here some of the benefits of eight limbs of yoga are as follows:
- It helps us purify our physical body
- Cleanse our energy body
- Become master of your senses
- Liberation of world’s illusions
- To achieve self-realization
- It focuses on stillness
- It encourages contemplation.
Yoga has eight limbs like a chair with four legs.Yoga’s eight limbs are all connected, every one forming the whole. So if you pull one, everything else will follow. If you pull one leg up, the whole chair will move. As the body develops, all its components are developed simultaneously. Not that the nose develops first and then the ear. Instead, all the parts, all the limbs of the body are developed simultaneously. That is why Patanjali says that these are the limbs of yoga.
Would you like to learn more about the eight limbs of yoga and master your yogi mindset? Here is what you need to know about the eight limbs of yoga.
What Are The 8 Limbs of Yoga?
The eight limbs of yoga are a set of principles that are often considered to be the philosophical foundation of modern yoga. They are as follows:
- Yama (ethics)
- Niyama (self-discipline)
- Asana (poses)
- Pranayama (breathing techniques)
- Pratyahara (awareness)
- Dharana (focus)
- Dhyana (meditative absorption )
- Samadhi (bliss or enlightenment)
1. Yama (Ethics)
The first limb of yoga is Yama, which refers to “vows, disciplines or practices. You should follow the five Yamas in how you treat others. They are as follows:
- Ahimsa (non-violence)
Being non-violent means you are not violent in thought, word, or action. When you establish yourself in non-violence, you no longer find a hostile environment around you.
- Satya (honesty or truthfulness)
It is important to speak the truth and act following the truth. That way, whatever action you take will be successful because you will be aligned with the truth.
- Asteya (non-stealing)
A person must not steal the property, wealth, ideas, or work of others. When one is steadfast in non-stealing, all treasures become available.
- Brahmacharya (sexual restraint or Celibacy)
It is important to live a lifestyle that supports the attainment of higher truth and restrains from multiplying our desires to maintain energy for spiritual development.
- Aparigraha (non-coveting)
The ability to overcome greed and a grasping mind to gain insight into the past, present, and future.
2. Niyama (Self-Discipline)
As the Yamas focus on society, the Niyamas focus on improving one’s self inwardly. There are 5 Niyamas, each of the five Niyamas is a set of values we apply to our relationship with ourselves. They are as follows:
- Saucha (cleanliness)
Keep your mind, body, and environment pure and clean. According to the Yoga Sutras, purification of the body and mind is an essential step in detaching from the physical world before meditation.
- Santosa (contentment)
We gain supreme happiness when we are content with what we have, Complete happiness is based on contentment.
- Tapas (self-discipline)
When the body and sense organs are purified using tapas, then they gain clarity and spiritual power. Impurities will be removed through self-discipline, and the body and sense organs will gain spiritual strength.
- Svadhyaya (spiritual studies)
Svadhyaya leads to the experiential understanding of the chosen scriptures, disciplines, and deities. During svadhaya, we are immersed in the deity that we have chosen.
- Isvara Pranidhana (devotion to a higher power or divine)
The goal is to surrender to the supreme being, to drop all sense of ego, and to see that everything is done with the intention of the Divine. By surrounding yourself with God, one will achieve samadhi.
3. Asana (Poses)
Asana means Yoga poses or Yoga posture. Asana is now frequently the stepping stone for people as they enter the world of yoga, but we should pay attention to calm and focus the mind. Yoga mats contain useful alignment lines that help perform asanas. By practicing posture, one can prepare the body for superiority. The posture should be comfortable and stable.
4. Pranayama (Breathing Techniques)
According to Patanjali, gaining complete control over your breath would help you live longer. That may sound a little far-fetched, but some research suggests it’s possible. As we control the breath, we gain control over the mind. By practicing pranayama, we expand and purify the pranic body; by doing so, we can see the inner light with greater clarity. Through pranayama practice, the mind is made ready for meditation.
5. Pratyahara (Awareness)
In the fifth yoga limb, pratyahara, you focus on self-awareness. It encourages you to be aware of any sensations and remove your attention from external distractions. We are prepared for concentration once pratyahara is achieved. It binds the senses and brings them from the outside to the inside. We can observe our cravings objectively during this Pratyahara period, allowing us to identify habits that may be detrimental to our health, as well as those that could be interfering with our personal growth.
6. Dharana (Focus)
Each stage builds on the previous one, so pratyahara creates an ideal environment for Dharana or concentration. After we have cleared our minds of distractions outside of ourselves, it is now possible to deal with the distractions within. Dharana is focusing the mind on a single object, such as a mantra, or concentrating the conscious mind on a chakra center to gain complete control over the subconscious mind. Dharana is to bind the mind to one place, object, or idea.
The three limbs of yoga are posture, breath control, and withdrawal of senses have all already helped us develop our concentration skills. During asana and Pranayama, we are paying attention to our actions, but our attention continually shifts as we fine-tune the many subtleties of any stance or breathing technique. Pratyahara teaches us to observe ourselves; Dharana teaches us to concentrate on a single point. Concentration for an extended period inevitably leads to meditation.
7. Dhyana (Meditative Absorption)
The seventh stage of yoga is meditation or contemplation. Although meditation (dhyana) and concentration (dharana), from an outsider’s perspective, appear to be the same, there is a fine line between them. At the end of dharana, the mind has been quieted. When the mind is still, there are fewer thoughts than when the mind is focused. Dhyana is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. Reaching this state of stillness takes a tremendous amount of strength and stamina. But don’t give up. While this might seem like an impossible feat, remember that yoga is an ongoing process. Even though we may not reach the “ideal” pose or state of consciousness, we benefit at every stage.
8. Samadhi (Bliss or Enlightenment)
Samadhi, the eighth and final stage of yoga, is described by Patanjali as a state of ecstasy. At this point, the meditator merges with his or her focus and transcends the Self completely. During meditation, the meditator comes to realize a deep connection with God and interconnectedness with all living things. This realization will bring about the “peace that passes all understanding”; an experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe.
The ultimate goal of yoga, described by Patanjali, is to achieve what, deep down, all humans desire: peace. It should also be noted that this point of enlightenment can neither be purchased nor obtained. It can only be experienced, and the price aspirers pay is continuous devotion.
What are the benefits of practicing eight limbs of yoga?
The benefits of practicing these Eight Limbs of Yoga will help us to purify our physical and energy bodies, become masters over our senses, and free ourselves from worldly illusions. The ultimate aim of practicing these practices is to achieve self-realization.
What is the purpose of the 8 limbs of yoga?
The purpose of the eight limbs of yoga is to guide one to a meaningful and purposeful lifestyle. Yoga Sutra explains that the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally translates to “eight limbs” (ashta = eight, and anga = limb). These eight steps are sometimes called the eight limbs of yoga.
Which country is the founder of yoga?
India is the country that is the founder of yoga. Yoga originated in northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in ancient sacred texts called the Rig Veda.
What is the birthplace of yoga?
Rishikesh is the birthplace of yoga. Rishikesh is also known as the “yoga capital of the world,” as it is the birthplace of this widely popular practice, which is said to benefit the body and mind. Rishikesh is vested along the sacred Ganges river at the foot of the Himalayas.
Who is the first teacher of yoga?
Some 5000 years ago, on the banks of Kanti Sarovar in the Himalayas, Adiyogi imparted his profound knowledge to the legendary Saptarishis, also known as “seven sages”, from the yogic tradition. Shiva is regarded as the first yogi or Adiyogi and the first Guru or Adi Guru.
What are the five elements of yoga?
As in Yoga, the five elements in Ayurveda are Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and ether (space). They appear in all aspects of life and every existence. According to legend, they are arranged in the order of the first five chakras (energy centers or “wheels of light”), beginning at the root chakra and ending at the throat chakra. All five elements work together in this way, and they form our minds, bodies, and experiences in life.
Eight limbs of yoga vs eight hold path?
‘Ashtanga Yoga System’ or ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ is one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which defines eight paths leading to liberation. Yoga is composed of eight limbs: yama (abstinence), niyama (observances), asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breathing control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption).
Buddhism’s Noble Eightfold Path describes the path to achieving the end of suffering as the Fourth Noble Truth of the Noble Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path consists of eight practices: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi (‘meditation or union’).
Who is believed as the father of yoga?
We follow the teachings of Patanjali Maharishi, which were developed by Lord Shiva through his deep and prolonged meditation.
Is yoga a Hindu or Buddhist?
In spite of the fact that yoga is not a religion in its own right, it is directly connected to it, and it originates from Hinduism but also Jainism and Buddhism. Both Buddhists and Hindus use the sacred mantra ‘Om’ while in meditation.
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