The Eight Limbs of Yoga

The eight limbs of yoga outline the eight steps toward enlightenment, each limb or step offering guidance on how we can live a meaningful and purposeful life. The word yoga means to connect or unite. Connect to our true self, also known as the divine essence, ultimate self, atman, or the soul. By connecting, we leave behind disconnection – whatever stops us from feeling free. This ultimate goal of yoga is to attain moksha, meaning liberation or freedom.

Yama

Restraints, moral disciplines, moral vows that are concerned with the world around us and our interaction with it. The five Yamas include:

  1. Ahimsa (non-violence)

  2. Satya (truthfulness)

  3. Asteya (non-stealing)

  4. Brahmacharya (right use of energy)

  5. Aparigraha (non-greed or non-hoarding)

Niyama

Positive duties or observances directed toward ourselves and our actions toward the outside world. The five Niyamas include:

  1. Saucha (cleanliness)

  2. Santosha (contentment)

  3. Tapas (discipline or burning desire or conversely, burning of desire)

  4. Svadhyaya (self-study or self-reflection, and study of spiritual texts

  5. Isvarapranidaha (surrender to a higher power)

Asana

Postures, the physical aspect of yoga, specifically the motionless and comfortable seat for meditation.

Pranayama

Breathing techniques, as prana refers to our energy or life source and the way in which we breathe that regulates this energy.

Pratyahara

Sense withdrawal, such as the sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch our senses take in. It changes our state of mind so that we become absorbed in what we’re focused on, rather than being distracted by the sensations and sounds outside of ourselves.

Dharana

Focused concentration. Drawing from Pratyahara, Dharana need the withdrawal of senses to focus and concentrate on something, whether it be visualization, candle-gazing, or breath.

Dhyana

Meditative absorption, when we are so absorbed that we are actually in a meditative state, reached by the previous stages.

Samadhi

Bliss or enlightenment. When we have organized in our inner and outer world, we reach self-realization – our connection within and the bliss that comes with attaining moksha.

Amanda Wilkie