The 8 Limbs of Yoga – A Closer Look at Their Role in Yoga and in Life
The 8 Limbs of Yoga, also sometimes referred to as the 8 Stages or Phases of Yoga, is the cornerstone of Yogic Philosophy, dating back millennia. The origins of yoga come to us from India more than 2500 years ago. The Vedic texts provide us with a background and a philosophy for the practice of yoga and for how to live a better life in general.
Here’s a very brief summary of the 8 Limbs of Yoga:
- The Yamas – In short, these are restraints… suggestions for how to live your life in harmony with yourself, others and the universe. An example would be Ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence or of not harming yourself, others, or the planet.
- The Niyamas – In short, these are observances…suggestions for how to live your life in harmony with yourself, others and the universe. An example would be Soucha, the principle of cleanliness.
- Asanas – These are the yoga poses we are all familiar with from our yoga classes.
- Pranayama – This is the breathwork or breath control – whether done in conjunction with the asanas or on its own, breathwork is a vital component to well living.
- Pratyahara – The withdrawal of the senses, where we try to make a conscious effort to ignore the distractions that are around you. This is a practice that can help u reflect and take a deeper look at ourselves.
- Dharana – An intense focus or state of concentration in which you can move into working with the distractions of the mind. Here we work to quiet the mind and slow down the thoughts running through it.
- Dhyana – The state of meditation, or the uninterrupted flow of concentration. A natural progression from Dharana given practice.
- Samadhi – State of oneness, sometimes also referred to as a state of bliss or oneness with the Universe. This state is said to be achieved only after much time practicing the prior 3 limbs and not everyone who meditates ever achieves this limb of yoga.
Practicing some or all of the 8 limbs has the power to transform your life immensely. And while following some or all of the 8 limbs is not a requirement of doing yoga, they can certainly guide the choices we make, helping us to become better humans for the benefit of ourselves, others around us, and the planet as a whole. And of course, they can help us develop a strong and productive yoga and/or meditation practice as well.
While what we do with the 8 limbs of yoga is entirely up to each one of us individually, the important thing to remember is they have the power to inform us as yoga practitioners both on our mats and out in the world.
Bobbi Billman, Ignite Yoga & Wellness Owner