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8 Limbs of Yoga

What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?

According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the ancient texts that is often cited as a source for the philosophy behind yoga, there are eight “limbs” (Ashtanga in Sanskrit) of yoga. Each limb relates to an aspect of achieving a healthy and fulfilling life, and each builds upon the one before it. You may be surprised to hear that only one of the limbs involves the performance of yoga postures.

1. Yama: Five ethical guidelines regarding moral behavior towards others. 

They are as follows:

* Ahimsa: Nonviolence towards other. Often cited as an argument for choosing a vegetarian diet.

* Satya: Truthfulness* Asteya: Not stealing * Brahmacharya: Chastity. Whether this means celibacy or simply controlling one's sexual impulses is open to interpretation. * Aparigraha: Not coveting

2. Niyama: Five ethical guidelines regarding moral behavior towards oneself.

They are as follows:

* Saucha: Cleanliness * Santosa: Contentment with oneself * Tapas: Sustained practice * Svadhyaya: Self study * Isvara pranidhana: Surrender to a higher power

3. Asana:

Practice of yoga postures, although it should be noted that in the time of Patanjali the word asana meant seat. The advent of modern yoga postures happened much later.

4. Pranayama:

Practice of breathing exercises.

5. Pratyahara:

Withdrawal of the senses, meaning that the exterior world is not a distraction from the interior world within oneself.

6. Dharana:

Concentration, meaning the ability to focus on something uninterrupted by external or internal distractions.

7. Dhyana:

Meditation. Building upon Dharana, the concentration is no longer focused on a single thing but is all encompassing.

8. Samadhi:

Bliss. Building upon Dhyana, the transcendence of the self through meditation. The merging of the self with the universe. Sometimes translated as enlightenment.

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