The 8 Limbs of Yoga
While most people associate Yoga with physical postures, they in fact are only one of the eight limbs of yoga.
At its root yoga is a practical, structured, scientific framework and embodiment practice that aims at curing our personal and social ills.
Susanna Barkataki, Author of Embrace Yoga’s Roots, Courageous Ways to Deepen Your Yoga Practice.
Thousands of years ago there were no postures in yoga. Originally yoga was a mix of mediation and breathing. In fact, postures weren’t referred to in yoga until Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras around 2,500 years ago.
The eight limbs of Yoga
‘Astha’ meaning eight and ‘angha’ which is often translated as limbs.
- Yamas – ethical behaviours and the way we interact with others when we show our true nature
- Niyamas – our inner mind, thoughts, and personal awareness of our relationship to self with a view towards inner harmony
- Asana (postures) – increasing the awareness of our body through being fully present, and becoming more comfortable in specific postures
- Pranayama (breath control) – consciously connecting to our breath and universal energy or prana
- Pratyahara (sense withdrawal) – drawing our senses inward
- Dharna (concentration) – consciously choosing to focus our attention inward
- Dhyana (meditation) – staying in the state of focussed concentration until become one
- Samadhi (bliss) – a state of unity and union to divine energy, the universe, or god.
Collectively these principles are the foundation of Yoga. They illuminate a path on how to live a meaningful purposeful life. The first two limbs, the Yamas and Nyamas, consist of ten ethics yogis strive to live by.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras draws upon and expands upon the wisdom, themes, and insights of sacred texts including the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, and Buddhist texts. They explain the 8 Limbs of Yoga scripture and provide a basic structure and text that forms a foundation for many modern forms of yoga. While they contained the earliest references to asanas and pranayama although don’t explain any specific poses.
Honouring the roots of Yoga
I’m not a fan of yoga classes that strip out only one or two of the limbs of yoga. I seek to honour the full scope and roots of yoga as much as possible. This influences the way in which I teach and what I teach.
If you’re a woman over forty who feels drawn to Slow Mindful Yoga that honours yoga roots, check out my classes <HERE>. They are accessible for all women over forty whatever your shape, size, level of fitness, or ability.
If you’re new to yoga or have limited experience, you may find it beneficial to first join my beginner’s online yoga course. Find out more <HERE>.
I’d love to hear about your experiences of yoga and what you think. Please do comment below.
Often described as one of the most authentic and inspiring souls you can meet, Alisoun is on a mission to improve the lives of 100,000 people–by making it easier for women over forty to thrive, make the most of life, and have more impact in the world.
Alisoun’s personal support, online group programs, mentoring, talks, and best-selling books Heartatude: The 9 Principles of Heart-Centered Success and Give-to-Profit: How to Grow Your Business by Supporting Charities and Social Causes have favorably changed the good fortune of thousands of people worldwide. She loves travelling, exploring, and living by the beach in Scotland.
Alisoun is has written the following free resources:
- Ebook: 101+ Ways to Create a Joyful Life of Meaning, Vitality, and Impact – click here.
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