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The Eight Limbs of Yoga

July 11, 2020 3 min read

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

 Atha yoga anushasanam
Now, the teachings of yoga.

—Yoga Sutra 1.1

Yoga as we know it today looks very different to how it has been traditionally practiced in India for thousands of years.

The sacred system of Yoga was never designed for fitness or for Instagram likes; in fact Yoga was taught as a way to reach enlightenment, through many different practices, including meditation, breathing techniques, study of ancient scriptures, deep concentration and maybe a few poses to build energy or heat in the body.

No matter why you practice Yoga today, there is no denying that it is a powerful tool to help shape lives (and bodies!) and to bring some more calm to our busy modern lives. However, it’s important that we understand and respect the origins of the practice, in order to understand and fully appreciate the holistic view of Yoga.

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali are a collection of 196 Sanskrit sutras written by the sage Patanjali around 500BCE.  The very first word of the first sutra is ‘atha’ which means ‘now.’ This word is carefully placed as it summarises the intent of Yoga, to be present. To be here, now.

The Yoga Sutras outline the eight limbs (ashtanga) of Yoga, the path to follow to reach enlightenment of the mind, body and spirit and in the words of Patanjali, the "layers and imperfections concealing truth" are "washed away," and your authentic self is revealed.

The eight limbs take many years to learn and to encompass, but here is a brief scratch of the surface of these original teachings from the Sutras.

Yamas– The first limb of Yoga is a set of ethical restraints to be observed to cultivate an embodied lifestyle. The Yamas are:

Ahimsa – Non-harming

Asteya – Non-stealing

Satya – Truth

Aparigraha – Non-attachment

Brahmacharia – Chastity

Niyamas– Alongside the Yamas are the Niyamas, the ethical observances one should follow.

Saucha – Cleanliness

Santosha – Contentment

Tapas – Persistence, determination, passion

Svadhyaya – Self-study

Ishvarapranidhana – Devotion to the Ultimate Being.

Asana – The physical practice that defines most modern Yoga practices is based around this limb of Yoga, the physical poses. These are done to strengthen the body and mind, cultivate and move energy mindfully through the body.

Pranayama – Breathing techniques, control of the breath. There are many different breathing practices that are used for different purposes in Yoga. They may be balancing, heating, cooling or calming.

Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses, finding the Yoga state within.

Dharana - Focus and concentration. Where your attention goes, the energy will flow there. During asana practice, this is known as drishti, the point you look at during each pose, to prevent your attention wandering.

Dhyana– Meditation. A key aspect of any Yoga practice, the physical asanas cultivate energy, pranayama, pratyahara and dyhana are all worthy preparation that allow you to delve more deeply into a meditative state.

Samadhi– Ultimate bliss or enlightenment. This is the true purpose of Yoga. Few people ever reach the state of samadhi, but it is the ultimate goal of all of the eight limbs.

At ZONE we embrace this holistic and authentic view of Yoga and offer our sustainable products as a way to help people discover their journey into these ancient teachings. Whether you practice Yoga just for fitness or to discover a deeper meaning, it’s helpful to understand and honour the origin and foundation that developed Yoga into what we know today.  

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