“Yoga is not just repetition of few postures – it is more about the exploration and discovery of the subtle energies of life.” –Amit Ray
More Than Physical
When most people think of yoga, they think of getting on a yoga mat and moving through a physical practice of stretches and various postures or poses. But what a lot of people aren’t aware of, is that that is only one branch of the eight limbs of yoga. Yoga isn’t just an exercise. It’s a philosophy, a way of living. Furthermore, each of these eight parts were created to work together to help guide you to becoming your best self. You wouldn’t knowing by looking through Instagram, but that’s more than how you look in a pose.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
The eight limbs of yoga are: yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. These are sometimes called raja yoga, or, the royal path. Some refer to them as ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). Hence, the idea is to practice and develop all of these facets of yoga for a meaningful and purposeful life. Here is a breakdown of what each facet is about:
This is the first limb, yamas, is about ethical and social restraint. It has to do with moral code and integrity. There are five components:
- Ahimsa: Non-violence, non-harm, non-injuring
- Satya: truthfulness
- Asteya: nonstealing
- Brahmacharya: continence
- Aparigraha: noncovetousness
This second limb has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. There are five components to this as well:
- Saucha: cleanliness
- Samtosa: contentment
- Tapas: spiritual discipline or austerities
- Svadhyaya: self-study
- Isvara pranidhana: surrender to God
The asanas are the physical practice of postures. It was developed in order to master the body to prepare it for meditation. In the yogic view our bodies are temples for the spirit. As such, these postures help us develop concentration and discipline, which is needed for meditation. They also help develop our body-mind connection.
Pranayama is breathing techniques to create breath awareness. Through the practice of this awareness, you can recognize the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions.
This means a withdrawal of the senses. It’s about drawing yourself in, or retreat. Through this, you make a conscious effort to draw your awareness away from outside stimuli to direct your attention inward.
Simply put, dharana is about concentration. It’s about controlling the distractions in your mind, to focus on a single thing: a point our physical environment, our breath, an image in our mind, etc. It trains our mind to focus in one direction, rather than being diverted in many directions.
Dhyana is meditation. After detaching from both external and internal distractions, we reside in a state of pure focus and tranquility. The objective is to clear the mind, cleanse the subconscious, thus bringing a unified communion with God.
Finally, the last of the eight limbs of yoga, samadhi, which is bliss. The literal meaning is ‘to bring together, to merge’. At this point, you transcend your own existence to merge with your point of focus. Here you attain the Supreme Cosmic Consciousness, and consequently, the goal of samadhi is reached.
Obviously, these explanations are just highlights to very complex ideas. If your interested in learning more about the eight limbs of yoga, there is a lot of good literature you can pick up to learn more. We’ve listed a few of our favorites below. Additionally, yoga teacher trainings are a great way to deepen your knowledge of yoga, even if you’re not looking to teach yoga. Particularly, for the study the yoga sutras. We’ve also included a few links to some of our favorite yoga teacher trainings.
We wish you the best on your yoga journey! Namaste!
Yoga Teacher Trainings
For an active list of yoga teacher trainings, you can also visit our website, here: