How The 8 Limbs Of Yoga Can Change Your Life

How The 8 Limbs Of Yoga Can Change Your Life

In the Yoga Sutras, the sage Patanjali outlined a path to enlightenment which is known as Ashtanga. This word literally translates to “eight limbs”.

 

You may have heard the eight limbs of yoga mentioned before. In general, they are a set of guidelines or steps that one is to follow in order to grow spiritually and achieve enlightenment.

 

They can apply to bigger, long-term goals for your life or they can help guide small daily decisions and interactions with others.

 

Here is a brief look at each of the eight limbs of yoga and how you might be able to incorporate them into your daily life, even a busy modern one.

 

  1. Yama (personal ethics and integrity)

The yamas are principles that guide our interaction with the outer world and those around us. They are broken down into five practices:

  • Ahmisa (non-harming)
  • Satya (honesty)
  • Asteya (not stealing)
  • Bramacharya (celibacy)
  • Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)

 

  1. Niyama (self-discipline and spiritual observances)

The niyamas are more internally focused and teach us self-love. These are also broken down into five practices:

  • Saucha (cleanliness)
  • Santosha (gratitude)
  • Tapas (discipline)
  • Svadhyaya (self-reflection)
  • Isvara Pranidhana (devotion to a higher power)

 

  1. Asana (physical postures)

This might seem a bit more familiar to you. However, traditionally it was only referring to a comfortable seated posture. Patanjali’s only purpose for asana was to find a posture for meditation and pranayama.

 

  1. Pranayama (breath control)

Prana refers to the energy within the body. So by consciously controlling the breath, we can also control the energy. Pranayama is a powerful tool that can be used in a lot of different ways.

 

  1. Pratyahara (sensory transcendence)

This concept of ‘sense withdraw’ is not so much that you actually lose the physical senses. It’s more about being absorbed in what you’re focused on that external factors no longer bother you.

 

  1. Dharana (concentration)

Dharana is focused concentration and is closely linked to the previous limb. One we’ve achieved pratyahara, we are able to focus our concentration and move forward to the next limb.

 

  1. Dhyana (meditation)

The seventh limb is when we become completely absorbed in the focus of our meditation. This is the moment when we are actually meditating.

 

  1. Samadhi (enlightenment)

The final step of the journey and state of bliss. We are able to see and experience the world without attachment and disturbance from the mind.

 

I know this all sounds overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. These eight limbs are basically just guidelines on how to live a meaningful life. Here are some simple ways to include them in your daily life.

 

 

  • Be kind to yourself (ahimsa)

 

Being kind to others is an obvious one, but do you try to show that same kindness to yourself? Stop the negative self-talk and develop a greater sense of self-love. When you make a conscious effort to do this, your relationship with others will start to change as well.

 

 

  • Start a daily gratitude journal (santosha)

 

In the morning before you start your day, write down two or three things you are grateful for.  This puts you in a state of gratitude which is one of the highest vibrational frequencies. Your mindset and everything around you will begin to shift just by starting your day with thoughts of gratitude.

 

 

  • Feed your body a clean, healthy diet (saucha)

 

The first of the niyamas involves cleanliness and it starts from the inside. Eat a clean diet free from preservatives and processed food. This will allow your body to clean itself from toxins.

 

 

  • Only buy what is necessary (aparigraha)

 

We live in a consumerist society, so this can be challenging at first. Before you buy something, stop and evaluate if its a need or a want. You can also work to simplify by going through old clothes and donating what you no longer use.

 

 

  • Mindfully move your body (asana)

 

Adopting a regular yoga practice would be the most obvious choice, but it’s not the only one. It’s more about moving mindfully and linking breath to movement. This could take the form of martial arts, running or even weight lifting.

 

 

  • Practice complete honesty, with others and yourself (satya)

 

You’ve probably already been taught from a young age to tell the truth. We know that we should be truthful to others, but honesty to yourself is just as important. Live with integrity and speak your truth.

 

 

  • Begin a morning mindfulness routine (pranayama / dhyana)

 

Remember that morning gratitude journal that you started? Well, a perfect thing to do before or after is a short meditation and pranayama exercises. I find that there’s no better way to start the day.

 

Start with just 5 or 10 minutes of meditation and some simple breathing exercises. As your practice grows stronger, you can increase your time and move to more advanced pranayama techniques.

 

You’ll begin to notice things start to shift, both in how you respond to things and how others respond to you. It can be a really simple routine but can have such a profound effect.

 

 

 

 

Category YOGA

Brett Larkin

Brett is the founder of Uplifted Yoga, an online yoga and meditation community empowering students to personalize their practice and ignite their best life – on and off the mat. She’s instructed at top studios, companies like Google and Pinterest, and leads the world’s most interactive Online Yoga Teacher Training program. She teaches to a social media following of over 350K people. Her content on Youtube is streamed for 3 million minutes each month. Learn more at BrettLarkin.com