What Are The 8 Limbs of Yoga

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If you have ever dipped your toe into the world of yoga the chances are you have come across this term.

Yoga means so many different things to different people and groups.

Lets start at the beginning…

Patanjali is often referred to as the Father Of Yoga.  

We don’t really know a lot about him, we just know that someone, or a group of people, known as Sri Patanjali live a long time ago.  Patanjali complied the Sutras.  “Sutra” translates as “thread”.

These individual  threads are the information, the thoughts, the guidance, from which we can each build our own practice. Together they can create a strong unbreakable thread.  They are not rules.  With practice and guidance we can add our own experience and experiment too.  We can find how to make the sutras work for us.  Our yoga becomes our yoga.

The practices, philosophies, and ideas, which themselves were already ancient when Patanjali recorded them in the Sutras for our learning and reference.  Possibly as old as 5,000 B.C.   And they form the basis for what we understand to be ‘yoga’ today.

There are almost 200, divided into 4 portions.  Contemplation, Practice, Accomplishments, and Absoluteness.  Or, theory, practical guidance, what a faithful practitioner might achieve, and more advanced yoga philosophy.

They consider just about every aspect of what it is to be a spiritual human. Life, love, sex, forgiveness, wickedness, meditation, pain, pleasure, selfishness, joy, movement, and work.  And the “8 Limbs”.

Within the portion on Practice, Patanjali gives us an insight into what ‘yoga practice’ might look like by dividing it in the 8 limbs  These are commonly referred to as the stages we as practitioners must pass through, must practice, commit ourselves too, in order to reach a bliss.  A permanent state of selfless joy.

The 8 Limbs are …
1. Yama, these are like the “don’ts”, a social code of conduct. There are 5 of them.
2. Niyama, the “do’s”, our personal conduct.  There are also 5 of these.
3. Asana, the postures we practice in a yoga class.
4. Pranayama, control of the breath using breathing exercises.
5. Pratyahara, sense withdrawal.  A tool for mental focus and beginning a meditation practice.
6. Dharana, single object concentration.  Another tool for quietening the mind and developing a foundation for…
7. Dhyana, meditation.
8. Samadhi, total waking living peace, joy and bliss.  A superconscious state of living.

Whether we aspire to ever reach a blissful superconcious state or not, the 8 limbs go a long way to give us practical guidance on how we can work towards a happy, healthy, well- balanced, loving, whole hearted life.

I will explore each of the 8 Limbs in more detail over the next few blogs, and the key contemplations which arise from each limb.  And perhaps set us a respective challenge here and their if you wish to join me!

Next time we will look at the the Yama’s.

Charlotte x


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