Yoga Poses

The 8 Limbs of Yoga Explained

If you practice yoga or go to a class you may well hear the term ‘8 limbs of yoga’ mentioned. This can initially be confusing and is often not explained to newcomers. The 8 limbs of Yoga described in the Yoga Sutras of the great Sage – Patanjali is a set of core principles, that overarch everything we do and should be seen as a guide to living a spiritual and meaningful life that brings as closer to our True Nature.

Let’s look at the eight limbs of yoga and what they mean.


The Eight Limbs are:

  • Yamas
  • Niyamas
  • Asana
  • Pranayama
  • Pratyahara
  • Dharana
  • Dhyana
  • Samadhi




Think of Yamas as your moral compass, a set of rules by which you should live. There are five Yamas, which in Sanskrit are called Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha. Which translate to nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity/fidelity and non-coveting.



Niyamas further explain how to take an active place in the world that brings you self-discipline and causes no harm. Cleanliness (Saucha), contentment (Santosha), willpower and self-discipline (Tapas), surrender to the divine (Ishvara Pranidhana) and self-study and scripture study (Svadhyaya).




This is a term you might also hear more commonly used. Asana refers to the poses in yoga, the different exercises your teacher will run through with you. The word itself means seat and refers to the tradition of sitting near your teacher in order to be able to learn.



In yoga, this is the limb that refers to the physical breath. While breathing is an unconscious response, in yoga we take it to a conscious exercise and learn to control and deepen your breathing which in turn will aid the body in many of the functions it performs.




In familiar terms, this is the practice of meditation. It is the time you set aside to sit quietly and focus on internal awareness and clearing of the mind. A time to leave the stress of the day at the door and sit in quiet reflection while learning to see beyond yourself.




The practice of intense focus sometimes referred to as visual meditation. Focusing wholly and entirely on one thing, perhaps a candle flame or a deity. Again this is designed to quiet the mind and train the mind to be still and focus. This is a good practice as you will find the benefits again fall into real life.




Perhaps better known as the flow state this is another peaceful, meditative state which brings a keen awareness. Have you ever experienced a time when you were so lost in the moment that time passed, you forgot to eat, you were just absorbed in the moment? That is Dhyana.




Referred to as the state of ecstasy, Samadhi is the state of transcendence that connects you to the device, the universe and the feeling that all things are at one with each other.



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