The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga as described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras is an eight limb path which is practiced to realize our true state within, a state of higher consciousness, Self realization, samadhi. The eight limbs are

  1. yama – observances and behaviors which regulate how we relate to others
  2. niyama – principles and commitments as to how we should lead our daily life
  3. asana – posture, maintain posture staying relaxed, steady and comfortable
  4. pranayama – breath control
  5. pratyahara – sensory withdrawal. Focusing attention upon one’s inner true Self
  6. dharana – concentration, one fixed introspective focus of mind
  7. dhyana – contemplation, reflection, awareness through uninterrupted meditation
  8. samadhi – oneness. State where one’s mind is completely absorbed upon whatever it is contemplating, the mind loses the sense of it’s own identity

Each of these limbs are interconnected. The first four limbs are externally oriented and help keep us from distractions of the external world. The next three limbs help us perfect our inner sphere. We must practice the first four limbs in order to experience the latter four limbs.*

Yama and niyama provide guidance on how we behave in the world. Yama and niyama must be practiced continuously.*

Yama and niyama are


  1. ahimsa – non-harming in action, word, nor thought. Do not cause pain to others
  2. satya – truthfulness in action and word. Be true and honest. Do not lie
  3. ashteya – non-stealing. Do not take what is not yours
  4. bramacarya – sexual restraint. Preserve vital energy, expending such only on occasion as appropriate
  5. aparigraha – non-hoarding. Do not accumulate nor want unnecessary things


  1. sauca – purity, both internally as well as externally. Think good, positive thoughts. Keep your body, environment, speech and thoughts clean
  2. santosha – contentment, acceptance. Be happy and content with what you have. Practice inner joy through spiritual focus
  3. tapas – self discipline. Maintain a disciplined, focused life. Through tapas, hard work, impurities of the body and mind are dissolved, our sense organs will gain spiritual power
  4. svadhyaya – self study. Practice and review, go deeper, learn, understand and experience the Self, the divine
  5. isvara pranidhana -!devotion to God. Surrender to God. See God in everything






* R. Sharath Jois