The 8 Limbs of Yoga

Yama is the first of the 8 limbs of yoga and means “restraint” (I call it “restraint of the flesh”) The five Yamas are ahimsa – kindness (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (not stealing), brahmacharya (moderation) and aparigraha – generosity (not hoarding).

Niyama is the second limb of yoga, referring to self-restraints or personal ethics, which include saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (austerity), svadhyaya (self-study) and Isvara pranidhana (surrender to a Higher Consciousness).

3rd – Asana means “seat” in Sanskrit and refers to the postures or poses that we practice – movements you normally see in a typical active yoga class. Positions of the body, connecting the mind and spirit to create strength, flexibility, balance and focus.

Pranayama is the fourth limb of the 8-limbed path of yoga and means life/energy retention or expansion. Pranayama refers to control of the prana (breath), puraka, (conscious inhalation), kumbhaka (retention of the breath) and rechaka (exhalation). Click here for my explanation on the untapped gifts of breath.

Pratyahara is the fifth limb of yoga and is the practice of withdrawing the senses from the outer world. Through this withdrawal, yoga practitioners heighten their inner awareness.

Dharana, the sixth limb of yoga, is “holding,” or concentration/focus/attention, and refers to the ability to focus exclusively on one object.

Dhyana is the seventh of the 8 limbs. It takes the practice of concentration on an object, dharana, to the deeper level of meditation (observation and reflection).

Samadhi is the final of the 8 limbs of yoga in which the person meditating merges with the object of meditation. It has been defined as “Ultimate Bliss”, “putting together”, and “going towards sameness (sama).” Basically tranquility, fulfillment, and spiritual illumination.


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