In today’s technology-ridden world, Yoga is swiftly growing attention among the western world to heal the mind, body, and spirit. There are 8 Limbs of Yoga that constitute to the completeness of healing and liberation from any entanglement.
Adapted widely as a way of living by millions of people, Yoga, as an ancient technique is now accepted by medical practitioners as well. So, what are these 8 Limbs of Yoga that lead to Moksha (Liberation or Freedom from all kinds of entanglements and bounds from within)?
In accordance with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (Principles or writings), an 8-fold path that leads to liberation is referred to as Ashtanga (‘Ashta’ meaning to ‘Eight’ and ‘Anga’ referring to ‘Limbs’) Yoga System. These are famously known as 8 Limbs of Yoga.
Eight Limbs of Yoga Chart
8 Limbs of Yoga Explained
There are different interpretations of these 8 Limbs of Yoga Patanjali as per different Yoga guides and ancient definitions. However, these interpretations are in accordance with Patanjali Yoga Sutra.
1) Yamas – Ethical and Social Codes
- Ahimsa (Non-Violence or non-harming),
- Satya (Truthfulness),
- Asteya (Non-Stealing),
- Brahmacharya (Restraint),
- Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness).
As said, Yamas are at the top of The 8 Limbs of Yoga and are ethical considerations to assist you with social interactions and centre yourself towards your behaviour.
Ahimsa translated as, Non-Violence, teaches us work towards practising non-violence in all the forms whether deeds or thoughts and teaches oneself to self-love.
Satya, meaning to truthfulness, encourages us to practice remaining truthful no matter what the circumstances are.
Asteya, in English, refers to non-stealing, guides us towards non-stealing and in all the ways or forms such as material or immaterial mentioned as Stealing or withholding information. Hiding some information for self-gain is also considered as stealing.
Brahmacharya is to restraint our sexual desires and gains self-control over the energy flow wisely that it does not cause any harm to others. In English, Brahmacharya is translated as Celibacy, which correctly defines the purpose of using the energy rightly.
Aparigraha is to practice letting go of any greed and possessiveness. In other words, practising Aparigraha brings contentment in you also known associated with Santosha hence, constraining you from greed and lust.
Lack of practice of Aaparigraha can give access to Asatya and Himsa to slide in and stake over your minds.
2) Niyamas – Moral and Personal Observance
- Saucha (Purity and cleanliness)
- Santosha (Contentment)
- Tapas (Austerities)
- Svadhayaya (Self-study and self-assessment)
- Ishvara Pranidhana (constant devotion to the divine source of life and existence).
The Niyamas teach us to practice self-discipline and worldview and are centred inward for internal purity and sanctity whilst observing self in terms of moral and personal aspects.
Saucha is to leave the state of self or surroundings pure and clean. One needs to have a pure physical, mental, and Spiritual State in order to banish the negativity as the initial step.
Santosha teaches us to practice contentment with whatever we have hence, eliminating the possibilities of using inappropriate methods to seek happiness.
Those who practice Santosha are far away from being touched by Greed and Himsa as they have learned about Contentment and have no greed or harsh feelings against anyone for lacking the amenities that others have.
Tapas Enables us to work on self-discipline and will power. Whether our mind is ready to accept what our body does and vice-versa. Tapas is not just referred to as strenuous physical exercise, it must be practised with an aim to sustain both mental and physical hardships.
Svadhyaya enlightens our path to learn about ourselves, to study ourselves and assess our deeds. A deep study of what you are, what you lack, and what you can be, is observed deeply when we practice Svadhyaya.
Ishvara Pranidhana helps us to have humility and devotion to the divine power and the creator of life. Ishara Paridhana is a practice of faith and patience to meet the divine state while one frees himself from ego and merges into the Universal Force.
3) Asana – Physical Exercises
Asana word is originated from the Sanskrit which means “Seat” and Physical Postures to practice in Yoga. It aims at preparing the body and mind seated correctly for meditation.
Asana is also an ancient tradition to be seated near your Yoga Teacher and is based on the principle that life is filled with opportunities despite numerous hindrances.
The reason why Teacher is mentioned in Asana is one needs a Teacher to learn from and bring stability amidst the ups and downs of life. Asana is a physical medium and just not a simple exercise that extends our comfort level.
4) Pranayama – Breathing Techniques
Through Pranayama we practice attaining breath control just through breathing and movements of muscles in and out. Pranayama being another Sanskrit term refers to cultivating the use of Universal Life Force Prana.
Pranayama is practised to improvise concentration, creativity, and clarity of focus. Different energies are required by different physical layers of our body to survive and sustain external forces.
A certain amount and quality of life force need to flow through different energy channels ‘Nadis’ and energy junctions ‘Chakras’ to determine our state of mind. To give our body a smooth and constant flow of energy, pranayama is practised.
5) Pratyahara – withdrawal of the Senses
Pratyahara refers to simply getting rid of distractions and attaining the utmost level of internal awareness. One who practices Pratyahara withdraws from external stimuli and elevates his senses.
Constant practice of Pratyahara resultantly grows our consciousness and ability to see things as they are disregarding our perspective. It is not to silence out senses, but to quiet them to have a better and far vision.
In simpler words, the energy we let go of by touching and sensing outside us gets directed back to us just by withdrawing our outward senses.
6) Dharana – One-pointed Concentration
Dharana is concentrating intensely on a particular object, for example, a candle flame, a pointed object, or round small figure/image. Through Dharana you achieve stillness of mind and learn to focus on your surroundings better.
Practising Dharana is a better way to realize the things, experience them, and let them go. Those practising Dharana regularly have a tendency to introspect self as well as the surroundings.
Moreover, Dharana helps us bring our attention and focus to the present surroundings by allowing us to gaze deeper into thoughtfulness playing a crucial role in the next of the 8 Limbs of Yoga, ‘Meditation’.
7) Dhyana – Meditation
It is rarely possible to be untouched by stress in today’s modernized world. Meditation comes in as a remedy for all sorts of stress we meet daily. Dhyana means Meditation and is an easy way to achieve peace of Mind and calm state.
There are some moments when we are taken down by daily life stress and worries of the past and the future. Dhyana helps us bring ourselves into the present state and accumulates our focus calmness and clarity.
Sitting in stillness, waiting for nothing to happen, and expecting nothing are the states of meditation which grows our consciousness and improvises inner strength with sound and deep sleep.
Those who practice Dhyana frequently, are less prone to mental stress and depression since they have attained a level that most required to reach the state of calmness and being still despite the stress.
8) Samadhi – Merging With the Divine Source
Samadhi is a state where you connect yourself with divinity going beyond the limits. It is a state where mind and body integrate to conjoin with the Universal oneness. Samadhi is the final state that is attained beyond “Dharana” and “Dhyana”.
Samadhi is considered a serene and pious state where one has an absolute absence of ego since the energy of Universal Oneness emerges out of Samadhi. While meditating during Samadhi, the memory is still awake and but free from all the forces and happenings.
Samadhi is one the ancient of Yogik practice that Tapasvis had been performing to reach the utmost spiritual state. Through Samadhi, fuses three the thinker, the process of thinking, and the thought into one subject.
No doubt there is interlinking between all these Eight Limbs of Yoga, let us not overlook the fact that these are stringent to practice and implicate such rigidity. It is not necessary to have mastered all the Niyamas in order to perform the asana. One can still easily gain growth.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga also known as Ashtanga Yoga are the root as well as the tip of the hierarchy of the ultimate Moksha even in this age.