being human,  breath,  embodiment

The 8 Limbs of Yoga: An Overview

In preparation for leading a module of a brand new yoga teacher training this summer, I’m currently re-studying the Yoga Sutras. A short but very dense book, the Yoga Sutras is a text written over 2000 years ago that provides a philosophical framework for the practice of yoga. Thought to be authored by Patanjali, the sutras are 196 aphorisms (or ‘threads’) that weave together to form a broad, excellently structured guide to the physical practice of yoga. The text speaks to uniting the body and mind, helps us better understand the nature of our minds and outlines philosophical living on the path of yoga.

In short, the Yoga Sutras details an 8 Limbed Path of Yoga which includes:

  1. Yamas: restraints, guides
    • Ahimsa: nonharming
    • Satya: truthfulness
    • Asteya: nonstealing
    • Brahmacharya: moderation
    • Aparigraha: nongrasping
  2. Niyamas: practices, observances
    • Saucha: purity
    • Santosha: contentment
    • Tapas: discipline
    • Svadhyaya: self study
    • Isvara Pranidhana: surrender
  3. Asana: postures
  4. Pranayama: breath retention/control
  5. Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses
  6. Dharana: concentration
  7. Dhyana: meditation
  8. Samadhi: oneness with object of meditation or surrender

This post serves as a basic introduction to the Yoga Sutras, a broad overview. Other posts will follow that will outline each of the eight limbs, including separate posts on each of the five yamas and niyamas. You can also download the free e-book, Yoga Prayers, which links to past essays I’ve written on the yamas and niyamas. I’ve been exploring and playing with these concepts for over twenty years now and they always have something new to teach me.

The sutras meet us wherever we are in life and they give us tools to deal with the situations life presents to us.

Please bookmark this page as I’ll continue to come back to it and link out to the posts on the individual limbs after they are published.