Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga (Part one)

With the stresses of modern life, demands of our families and overall ‘busy-ness’ of our everyday jobs, wouldn’t it be great to have a blueprint showing us how we can live our life to maintain optimal health?

Well such a blueprint exists, it’s been around for more than 5000 years, and it’s free for anyone to access!

The ‘8 Limbs of Yoga’ – which originates from the book Yoga Sutra by the ancient sage Patanjali – represents the yogic guide to achieving higher levels of physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

The eight limbs have been laid out in a sequential way, to guide people on a personal journey that starts with the external state, goes deep within, ending with a connection to the universal consciousness.

Devotees of yoga may spend most of their life following and perfecting this path. But the good news is, anyone can connect to and focus on just a few of the eight limbs, include them in their life, practise them on a regular basis, and reap the rewards.

Think of it mostly as your ‘yoga off the mat’.

In part one, we look at the first four limbs of yoga and how we can integrate them into our lifestyle.


1) Yama

Yama is all about our ethical code and belief system – how we personally choose to live our life in relation to others.

The five yamas are:

1) Non-violence (Ahimsa) – we should simply show compassion to all living things.

2) Truthfulness (Satya)– we should be true to ourselves and to those around us. There is no place for deceit in the yoga lifestyle.

3) Non-stealing (Asteya) – this does not relate to the physical taking of goods, but has a more metaphorical sense. We should not ‘steal’ people’s time or attention if they do not freely want to give it. And from our own standpoint, we should focus on giving and abundance.

4) Sense control (Brahmacharya) – this relates to the control of our sexual energy and how we choose to give and receive it.

5) Non-coveting (Aparigraha) – this is about letting go, of not holding onto the material things or the limiting beliefs that weigh us down on a daily basis. If we don’t covet and we don’t hoard, we can start to set ourselves free.


2) Niyama

The second limb of yoga is based around self-discipline and the ‘rules’ we choose to follow in our everyday life.

The 5 niyamas are cleanliness (Sauca), contentment (Santosa), persistence (Tapas), self-reflection (Svadhyaya), and devotion to a higher power (Isvarapraṇidhana).

Each step leads to the other. For example, if you start by decluttering your house, this can start to bring contentment to your mind.


3) Asana

Asanas are the physical postures of yoga and most likely were your first introduction to the practise of yoga.

Some people may perhaps be surprised to discover they represent just one of the eight limbs of yoga.

Through the asana we start to build our physical and mental strength, gain flexibility and suppleness, eliminate tensions and toxins, calm our mind and start to radiate health.

Commit to a regular practise of yoga asana and see how your whole life will start to change for the better!


4) Pranayama

If you’ve been taught yoga correctly, you will know that success depends on learning to control your breath.

In yoga, breathing connects us to Prana – the life force that flows within us and through all living things.

Yogis believe that the better (and deeper) we breathe, the longer we’ll live.

We can learn, though different breathing techniques, to control the prana within us – to calm ourselves, to energise our mind and body, and to connect to a greater power.

As you can see, the first four limbs can have a practical application our daily lives, while helping us on our path to a deeper level of understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

In Part 2, we’ll look at the four remaining limbs of yoga which, when we’re truly ready, will help us embark on an even deeper journey within.

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