The 8 limbs of Yoga: Philosophy for Beginners

Yoga Philosophy - 8 limbs of yoga

Ashtanga – The eight limbed path

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras state that to live a meaningful and purposeful life, one should follow ‘Ashtanga’. Ashta translates to eight and Anga translates to limbs in Sanskrit, so the word Ashtanga means the eight limbed path.

There are eight limbs to Ashtanga Philosophy, which focus on self-control, self-discipline and moral and ethical codes we should live by as Yogis.

They give advice on staying healthy, cleanliness of self and environment, meditation and physical asana practice.

The 8 limbs of Yoga: What are they?

  • Yamas – the five ethical and moral codes Yogi’s live by. Ahimsa – Non violence, Asteya – Non stealing, Aparigraha – Non greed, Satya – Truthfulness and Bramacharya – being good with ones energy.
  • Niyamas – Five self disciplines. Saucha – cleanliness, Santosha – Contentment, Tapas – Austerities and heat, Isvara pranidhana – surrenderin.g to a higher power, Svadhyaya – Study of the self and Yogic Scripts.
  • Asana – The physical postural practice of yoga. The most common perception of Yoga, where we focus on the physical and mental well-being.
  • PranayamaGentle breathwork and breathing exercises, designed to help pranic energy (life force energy) flow and nourish the body, as well as helping to calm and still the mind.
  • Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses through meditation practice.
  • Dharana – One point focus, removing all other distractions, focusing on inner awareness.
  • Dhyana – Contemplation and meditation. Quieting the mind, unbroken flow of meditative state for long periods of time.
  • Samadhi – Union with the divine and self, deep sense of peace and stillness.

Beginners Philosophy, where is best to start?

It’s best to start with the physical asana side of practice and focus on bringing the Yama’s into your practice. There are many Yama’s we can incorporate into our lives both on and off the mat.

Often, Yoga is practiced for fitness reasons and the essence of the practice is lost. Incorporating the eight limbed path on and off the mat helps us to benefit from the philosophical and meditative sides to the practice.

A good place to start with asana practice is learning Surya Namaskar – The Sun Salutations. They help us learn proper breathing techniques within the practice. It also helps us build strength and flexibility, as well as teaching the foundations of building a lasting practice.

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For example, incorporating the Yamas – Ahimsa and Satya into practice.

Ahimsa – No harm in thought and action.

Ahimsa - the yogi dictionary

Ahimsa translates into Non-harm/Non-violence in Sanskrit. We can start to incorporate this into our practice both on and off the mat.
It becomes obvious to not harm in action, but how often do we do this in thought? Especially to ourselves? are we kind to ourselves on the mat? Do we practice with ease, or do we force ourselves?
could we modify our diet to practice Ahimsa? Perhaps, leaning to more vegetarian or plant based diets. Could we look after ourselves, or others, mentally and physically more?

All of these pointers will help us practice Ahimsa both on and off the mat.

Satya – Being Truthful

satya - being truthful

– What is Satya? –

Satya translates to truth in English.

When practicing Satya – Our thoughts and actions should be true, whilst not causing harm and being positive. How truthful are we daily? How many white lies do we tell? To ourselves, to others?
See an article I wrote on the subject of Satya here.

To Summarize…

We can all benefit from learning and practicing the eight-limbed path along side the more physical asana practice.

Do you incorporate philosophy and meditation into your practice? I’d love to hear from you! Comment or like below.

About The author:

Aimee is a Yoga, Meditation and Move It or Lose It! teacher in located in Middlesbrough, England, UK.

To find out more, visit www.amalateesside.com

8 Comments

  1. Ahimsa and Satya at great ways to achieve peace in our daily lives. I have learned a lot reading this post. I should start learning more about yoga and start this healthy habit for body and mental health.

  2. Thank for this reminder post about yoga philosophy. I always enjoyed the Sun Salutations. I bookmarked the image so I can start doing them again!

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