The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Posted by on Sep 16, 2012

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Samadi Pada 1.“Atha Yoganusasanam”

Now the exposition of Yoga is being made.”

-Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda

Yoga strives to create union among the body, mind and spirit, allowing us to become more aware of ourselves and our connection to the rest of the world. The prescription for this notion of awareness and connectivity can be found in Patanjali’s, The Yoga Sutras.Written approximately 200 AD, The Yoga Sutras constitute the foundation of Yoga Philosophy and provides a functional model for yoga practice with the eight-limbed path that is described within. Each of the eight limbs are considered to be equal in importance and essential for union.

Sadhana Pada 28. “Yoganganusthanad Asuddhi Ksaye Jnanadiptir A Vivekakhyateh”

By the practice of the limbs of Yoga, the impurities dwindle away and there dawns the light of wisdom, leading to discriminative discernment.”

 29. “Yama Niyamasana Pranayama Pratyahara Dharana Dhyana Samadhayo’Stav Angani”Atha Yoganusasanam”

The eight limbs of Yoga are:

Yama (abstinance)

Niyama (observance)

Asanas (posture)

Pranayama (breath control)

Pratyahara (sense withdrawl)

Dharana (concentration)

Dhyana (meditation)

Samadhi (super-conscious state)

-Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda

The first two limbs, The Yama’s and Niyama’s describe the ethical precepts that are suggestions on how we use our energy, the attitudes we have toward things and people outwardly (yama), as well as our relation to our self inwardly (niyama).

The third and fourth limbs, Asana and Pranayama, are the practices we consider Hatha Yoga and pertain to  the physical body. Asana is the most commonly known yoga practice and has many benefits, including balance, flexibility and strength in addition to quieting the mind, which makes it a wonderful preparation for meditation. Pranayama works to control the energy (prana) within through the movement of the breath. These breathing techniques are very important to the practice of yoga because it provides both purification, through the heat evoked by the breath, and self discipline of the mind and the body.

The fifth limb, Pratyahara, translates as “to withdraw from that which nourishes the senses” and includes letting go of attachment to external objects. By practicing non-attachment you move toward the path of internal peace. Dharana, the sixth limb, means concentration and is one of the accomplishments of a yoga practice. This is the ability of the mind to give it’s attention to one thing, to focus it in one direction.

Dhyana, the seventh limb, is Meditation, the fixation of the mind. The practice of meditation allows for the ability to see things clearly, to find truth and to perceive beyond the illusions that cloud our mind. The final limb is Samadhi, which means to bring together. It is in the state of samadhi that the body rests, as if asleep, but the mind is alert in a state beyond consciousness. Samadhi is the ultimate goal of our practice and is rarely attained, as this is complete integration of the body, mind and spirit.

The eight limbs are steps along a holistic path towards physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. We hope that you have enjoyed this introduction to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Eight Limbs of Yoga and look forward to continuing to share about the roots of yoga and yoga philosophy.

Peace, Love and Light,


by Ashley Freeman RYT

Ashley Freeman is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Certified in Raja Yoga, her experience includes private in-home lessons, workplace wellness programs, and group instruction teaching various class formats and yoga styles. Find her on

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