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Introduction to the 8 Limbed Path & Meanings 

In this blog, we will try to keep it as simple as possible as we discuss the Eight-Limbed path as described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as they are the foundation of how Hatha Yoga is being practiced today. 

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, finding a path to balance and well-being is more crucial than ever. One ancient system that offers a comprehensive guide to harmonizing the mind, body, and spirit is the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Developed by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, these limbs provide a holistic framework for personal development and self-discovery. In this blog post, we'll delve into each limb and explore how they can be applied to enhance our lives in the contemporary world.


Ashtanga yoga literally means “eight-limbed yoga“: ashta = eight, anga = limbs. Do not confuse Ashtanga in this context with the Ashtanga Vinyasa system as developed by Pattabhi Jois, which is a later developed yoga practice inspired and named after the original.


According to Patanjali’s system, yoga is based on 8 spiritual practices: 

Yama – universal ethical principles

Abstaining from harming others through wrongdoing, including non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, not wasting our energy, abstention from greed or hoarding. 

In today's world, practicing Yamas involves fostering kindness, honesty, and responsible consumption. By incorporating these principles, we create a foundation for a more compassionate and sustainable society.


Niyama – rules of personal conduct

Principles for our own daily lives, including purity or cleanliness, contentment, discipline, study, devotion.

Niyamas are personal observances aimed at cultivating self-discipline and spiritual growth. Integrating Niyamas into modern life means embracing mindfulness practices, setting personal goals, and fostering gratitude, leading to a more fulfilling and purpose-driven existence.


Asana – the practice of asanas

Seat or posture, yoga poses. Asana refers to the practice of physical postures, which is what many people commonly associate with yoga. In the modern context, regular asana practice not only enhances physical health but also serves as a moving meditation, promoting mindfulness and stress reduction. Incorporating yoga postures into a daily routine can improve flexibility, strength, and overall well-being.


Pranayama – the practice of yoga breathing techniques

Mastering and enlivening the life force.

Pranayama involves conscious control of breath to enhance the flow of prana (life force energy). In the fast-paced world we live in, practicing pranayama techniques provides a powerful tool for managing stress and promoting mental clarity. Deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing or alternate nostril breathing, can be easily incorporated into daily life to foster a sense of calm and balance.


Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses

Inner reflection. Pratyahara is the practice of turning inward by withdrawing attention from external stimuli. In the age of constant digital distractions, cultivating the ability to detach from sensory inputs is crucial. Mindful practices like meditation, sensory deprivation, or even a simple nature walk can help in developing this internal focus, promoting mental resilience.


Dharana – a willing concentration of the mind on one object

Focused attention, one pointed concentration. Dharana involves concentration and one-pointed focus. In our multitasking culture, the ability to concentrate has become a rare skill. Mindfulness meditation, visualization, or mantra repetition are effective tools to enhance concentration, allowing us to be more present and engaged in our daily activities.


Dhyana – meditation

Meditation, continuous flow, a natural state where the mind becomes stable on one object without any effort. 

Dhyana is the practice of sustained focus and meditation. Integrating meditation into modern life supports mental clarity, emotional well-being, and resilience. Whether through guided meditations, mindfulness apps, or traditional techniques, regular meditation offers a sanctuary for inner peace and self-discovery.


Samadhi – Spiritual absorption

Freedom, liberation, enlightenment. The ultimate goal of yoga, Samadhi is a state of profound peace and unity with the divine. While this may seem like a lofty ideal, modern life offers glimpses of Samadhi through moments of deep connection, purposeful living, and self-realization. By aligning our actions with our values and cultivating mindfulness, we can experience a sense of union and fulfilment in our daily lives.




These two first limbs are the very foundations and important limbs of Yoga and the whole practice, remember it is far beyond the asanas.Let's take a look how these can help you in your daily life, your relationship with yourself, others, and as a yoga practitioner or teacher.



Yama is your attitude towards others and the world around you. There are 5 Yamas:



Non-violence. This Yama does not only mean not doing harm to others in action, but thought and speech equally. Also it is not limited to non-violence against other human beings, but practicing kindness to other creatures (animals) as well as yourself.



Truthfulness. Satya is the Yama that is about living a truthful life without doing harm to others. Therefore, think before you speak and consider the consequences of your actions. If the truth could harm others, it might be better to keep silent. Also, it would entail living your own truth and not merely pleasing others throughout your life.



Non-stealing. Non-stealing here not only refers to material objects but also the stealing of others thoughts, ideas or other possessions.



Non-lust. Bramacharya means divine routine, to move toward the essential truth. Historically, it was (and sometimes still is) translated as self-control and abstinence regarding sexual activity. However, at the same time it is known that many yogis had families and children. Thus it might be interpreted as moderation regarding giving in to our excessive desires.



Non-possessiveness. This Yama is about living a life free from greed. It teaches us only to take what is necessary and not to take advantage of others.





Niyama is how you treat yourself or your attitude towards yourself. The following are the five Niyamas:



Cleanliness. This Niyama is concerned with inner and outer cleanliness. The practice of pranayamas, asanas, kriyas, and meditation are necessary to achieve inner cleanliness, of the body and mind. Also remain aware of outer cleanliness like the space you live in, the surroundings, and actually the whole of the environment.



Contentment. Santosha refers to practicing humility, modesty and being at peace with what you have and who you are.



Austerity. This Niyama teaches us to keep the body in good condition. Tapas is practiced through disciplining the body, speech, and mind like eating only when hungry and maintaining a good posture. Also, it is translated often as perseverance, not giving up too easily, especially on the spiritual path.



Study of the sacred text and of one’s self. This involves studying yourself and therefore anything that can help you on that path.


Ishvara Pranidhana

Living with an awareness of the Divine. This Niyama encourages us to let go of our false sense of the Self and control and to always be aware of a higher sense of consciousness that which gives us the sense of wholeness.




The Eight Limbs of Yoga provide a timeless roadmap for navigating the complexities of modern life. By incorporating these principles into our daily routines, we can foster balance, resilience, and a deep sense of well-being. As we embrace the wisdom of the ancient yogic teachings, we discover that the path to a harmonious life is within reach, offering a transformative journey of self-discovery and personal growth.

These are great foundational principles to read and read again, truly absorb and think carefully about how you can bring these into balance in your own body, mind and soul. In our next blog, we will get into more depth on these areas and what they mean for our practice! 

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Awakening /əˈweɪkənɪŋ/

Becoming for the first time (I). Coming into existence or awareness.

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