What are the 8 limbs of Yoga/Ashtanga yoga?
Maharishi Patanjali advocated the eight limbs of Yoga, which is also known as Ashtanga Yoga in his Yoga Sutra. The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is divided into four chapters or pada. The first chapter deals with Samadhi, the second with the Sadhana to achieve Yoga, the third enumerates the power (Vibhuti), and the fourth deals with absolution (Kaivalya). Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali has the power to eliminate impurities, enhancement of knowledge and wisdom. The eight limbs of yoga-Ashtanga yoga are:
Eight limbs of Yoga-Ashtanga Yoga
- Yama (Restraints)
- Niyama (Observances)
- Asana (Posture)
- Pranayama (Expansion of Breath)
- Pratyahara (Withdrawal of Senses)
- Dharana (Concentration)
- Samadhi (TranscendentalState)
Ashtanga Yoga Yama (Restraints)
The eight limbs of yoga are described in the second chapter. The first of these is Yama (ethical disciplines), which is further divided into five components. These five aspects of Yama are the rules of morality for society and the individual, which if not obeyed bring chaos, violence, untruth, stealing, dissipation, and covetousness. The five commandants of Yama are:
- Ahimsa (Non-violence): It means that one should not harm living creatures.
- Satya (Truthfulness): One should not speak a lie and also restrain from speaking a truth that may hurt others.
- Asteya (Non-stealing): It means to extend that one should not even desire something that is not one’s own.
- Brahmacharya (Celibacy): The behavior which will be conducive for reaching the highest goal of the spiritual Sadhana.
- Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness): One should avoid collecting the things that one does not need.
Ashtanga Yoga Niyama (Observances)
Niyama is the rules of conduct that apply to individual discipline. The five niyama enumerated by Patanjali are:
- Saucha (purity)
- Santosh (contentment)
- Tapas (ardour or austerity)
- Svadhyaya (study of the self)
- Isvara Parnidhana (dedication to the lord)
Ashtanga Yoga Asana
Asana is the third component of the eight limbs of Yoga mentioned in the Patanjala Yoga Sutra. It brings steadiness, lightness, and health of body and mind.
- Asana is not only confirmed to steadiness (sthira ) but also equally pleasant and comfortable ( sukham). Stability and comfort are the main characteristics of asana.
- Prayatnasaithilya (relaxation of effort) and Anantasamapatti (merger of mind with infinite) are also the characteristics of Asana.
- It implies that the practice of asanas will help the practitioner to endure the dualities and opposites in life viz. heat –cold, raga-dvesa, pain-pleasure, etc.
Ashtanga Yoga Pranayama (Expansion of Breath)
Pranayama is the fourth step of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in Patanjala Yoga Sutra. Prana means breath, respiration, life, vitality, energy, or strength. Ayama means length, expansion.
- Pranayama thus means expansion of breath and its control. This is overall the functions of breathing, namely, inhalation or inspiration, exhalation or expiration, and retention or holding the breath (a state where there is no inhalation and exhalation).
- Regular practice of Pranayama improves attention, soothes the nervous system, and reduces cravings. As desires and cravings diminish, the mind is set free and becomes a fit vehicle for concentration.
Ashtanga Yoga Pratyahara (Withdrawal of senses)
Pratyahara is the fifth component of the eight limbs of Yoga mentioned in the Patanjala Yoga Sutra. It brings control over the senses by withdrawing them from their respective objects.
Types of Pratyahara
- Indriya-Pratyahara – control of the senses;
- Prana- Pratyahara – control of Prana;
- Karma-Pratyahara – control of action; and
- Mano-Pratyahara -withdrawal of the mind from the senses. Each has its special methods.
Ashtanga Yoga Dharana (Concentration)
Dharana is the sixth component of Ashtanga Yoga outlined in the Patanjala Yoga Sutra.
- It is the confinement of the mind to one point.
- Here the practitioner makes effort to concentrate his mind stuff on the internal objects.
- It is the primary stage of Dhyana (meditation).
Ashtanga Yoga Dhyana (Meditation)
Dhyana is the seventh step of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in Patanjala Yoga Sutra.
- It is an effortless concentration on the defined objects.
- It is the primary stage of Samadhi.
- Dhyana happens naturally when all the distractions do not arise.
Ashtanga Yoga Samadhi (Transcendental State)
Samadhi is the end of a practitioner’s quest. His body and senses are still seemed to be asleep. However, his faculties of the mind are alert and the person in this state is fully conscious and alert. It is the eighth component of Ashtanga Yoga outlined in the Patanjala Yoga Sutra.
- It is the state of trance-consciousness wherein Yogi remains unmoved by physical and mental afflictions.
- In other words, a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation.
- It is the final state of Yoga and has been described variously as a state of uninterrupted joy and peace absolute consciousness and self-realization.