The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness. The eight limbs emanate from a central core. Whatever limb of practice we focus upon inevitably causes the other limbs to grow as well.
1. YAMAS: how we relate to others
Ahimsa – non harming / compassion to all living beings
Satya – commitment to truthfulness
Brahmacharya – wise use of energy
Asteya – non stealing
Aparigraha – non possessiveness
2. NIYAMAS: how we relate to ourselves
Saucha – Purity, cleanliness
Santosha – Contentment
Tapas – Self discipline/passion
Swadhyaya – Self-study
Isvara Pranidhana – Surrender
3. ASANA – Asanas are physical poses and postures we make with our body to improve flexibility, strength and vitality. They are used as a tool to calm the mind to help prepare it for meditation. In the yoga sutras, asana is referred to as the seated meditation posture.
‘Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and
benevolence of spirit. Posture is mastered by releasing tension and
meditation on the infinite being within. The mastery of asana eliminates
disturbances by duality.’
– Patanjali, Raja Yoga Sutra 2.46-48
4. PRANAYAMA – Is the strategic use of breath to control and direct Prana (life force). Practicing Asana & Pranayama together helps to purify whatever is stagnant, clearing more space so Prana can move around more freely.
‘Pranayama removes the veils covering the light of knowledge and heralds
the dawn of wisdom. Pranayama is not only an instrument to steady the
mind; it also makes the mind fit for concentration.’
– Patanjali, Raja Yoga Sutra 2.52-53
5. PRATYAHARA Withdrawal of the senses. The drawing of one’s attention toward silence rather than toward things.
6. DHARANA – Focusing attention and cultivating inner perceptual awareness.
7. DHYANA – Meditation. Sustaining awareness under all conditions.
8. SAMADHI – “to bring together, to merge.” Union with the Divine is achieved in Samadhi. There is no longer a separate identity but an experience of one-ness with the Universe. The return of the mind into original silence.