Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga
The right means are just as important as the end in view. Patanjali mentioned these means as the eight limbs of Yoga for the betterment of wellbeing and moving towards the inner journey. The entire mechanism of yoga, in facts revolve around these eight stages. The various yoga rishis and munis have elaborated it in their own aspects. Here, we will discuss what are the 8 limbs of yoga and what are its various types. They eight limbs are:
- Yama (universal moral commandments)
- Niyama (self-purification by discipline)
- Asana (posture)
- Pranayama (rhythmic control of the breath)
- Pratyahara (withdrawal and emancipation of the mind from the domination of the senses and exterior objects)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (a state of super-consciousness).
Yama-the first limb of yoga
The 8 limbs of Yoga are described in the second chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. The first of these is yama (ethical disciplines) – the great commandments. These commandments are the rules of morality for society and the individual, which if not obeyed bring chaos and covetousness. Patanjali strikes at the root of these evils by changing the direction of one’s thinking along the five principles of yama.
The various commandments of yama are
- Ahimsa (non-violence)
- Satya (truth)
- Asteya (non-stealing)
- Brahmacharya (continence)
- Aparigraha (non-coveting)
Niyama–the second limb of yoga
Niyama are the rules of conduct that apply to individual they follow the rules, regulation and discipline in their day to day life. The five niyama listed by Patanjali are:
- Saucha (purity)
- Santosha (contentment)
- Tapas (ardour or austerity)
- Svadhyaya (study of the Self)
- Isvaraparidhana (dedication to the Lord)
Asana-the third limb of yoga
- The third limb of yoga is asana or posture.
- Asana brings steadiness, health and lightness of limb.
- It helps to produce mental equilibrium and prevents wandering of mind.
- By practising them one develops agility, balance, endurance and great
- Asanas have been evolved over the centuries so as to exercise every muscle, nerve and gland in the body.
- They give you a slim and trim physique, which is strong and elastic and also prevent the body from many disease.
- They reduce fatigue and soothe the nerves. But their real importance lies in the way they train and discipline the
Pranayama-the fourth limb of yoga
- Prana means breath, respiration, life, vitality, wind, energy or strength.
- The word is generally used in the plural to indicate vital breaths.
- Ayama means length, expansion, stretching or restraint.
- Pranayama thus connotes extension of breath and its
- This control is over all the functions of breathing, namely, inhalation or inspiration, which is termed puraka (filling up); exhalation or expiration, which is called rechaka (emptying the lungs), and retention or holding the breath, a state where there is no inhalation or exhalation, which is termed kumbhaka.
Pratyahara-the fifth limb of yoga
- If there is rhythmic control of breath, the senses instead of running after external objects of desire turn inwards, and man is set free from their tyranny.
- This is the fifth stage of Yoga, namely, Pratyahara, where the senses are brought under control.
- When this stage is reached, the sadhaka goes through a searching self-examination.
Dharana–the sixth limb of yoga
- When the body has been tempered by asanas, when the mind has been refined by the fire of pranayama and when the senses have been brought under control by pratyahara, the sadhaka reaches the sixth stage called Dharana.
- Here he is concentrated wholly on a single point or on a task in which he is completely engrossed. The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption.
Dhyana-the seventh limb of yoga
- When the flow of concentration is uninterrupted, the state that arises is dhyana (meditation).
- As the filament in an electric bulb glows and illumines when there is a regular uninterrupted current of electricity, the yogi’s mind will be illumined by dhyana.
- His body, breath, senses, mind, reason and ego are all integrated in the object of his contemplation – the Universal Spirit.
- He remains in a state of consciousness which has no qualification whatsoever. There is no other feeling except a state of Supreme Bliss.
- Like a streak of lightning the yogi sees light that shines beyond the earth and the heavens.
- He sees the light that shines in his own heart. He becomes a light unto himself and others.
Samiidhi-the eighth limb of yoga
- Samadhi is the end of the sadhaka’s quest.
- At the peak of his meditation, he passes into the state of samadhi, where his body and senses are at rest as if he is asleep, his faculties of mind and reason are alert as if he is awake, yet he has gone beyond
- The person in a state of samadhi is fully conscious and alert.