Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga: An Overview

ahimsaIf you’ve practiced yoga for any length of time, you may have heard of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or the eight limbs of yoga. But do you know what they are? Throughout the rest of the year, I’ll be sharing an overview.

The Yoga Sutras

The Yoga Sutras is a yogic text compiled by Patanjali. While there is some mystery around who Patanjali was, the simplified explanation is that he was a yogic sage who compiled the Sutras. What the Sutras are is neatly summed up in a quote from Yoga Journal:

“The Yoga Sutra, widely regarded as the authoritative text on yoga, is a collection of aphorisms, outlining the eight limbs of yoga. These ‘threads’ (as sutra translates from Sanskrit) of wisdom offer guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life.”

The Eight Limbs

The yoga that most of us are familiar with in the West focuses on the third of the eight limbs, asana or posture. A brief overview of all eight limbs is below:

  1. Yama: ethical restraints for social harmony
    • Ahimsa: non-harming
    • Satya: truth
    • Asteya: non-stealing
    • Brahmacharya: right use of energy
    • Aparigraha: freedom from greed
  2. Niyama: personal standards
    • Sauca: purity
    • Santosha: contentment
    • Tapas: self-discipline
    • Svadhyaya: self-study
    • Isvara Pranidhana: union with the Divine
  3. Asana: physical practice
  4. Pranayama: regulation of life force
  5. Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses
  6. Dharana: single-pointed concentration
  7. Dhyana: meditation
  8. Samadhi: enlightenment

Throughout this week via this blog and my classes, we’ll be taking a look at the first of the yama: ahimsa. Until then, thank you for reading.




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