Skip to content

The 8 Limbs

1. Yama: The Great Universal Vows

Altar for Sri K. Pattabhi Jois at Jivamukti right now
Altar for Sri K. Pattabhi Jois at Jivamukti right now
“Yogash chitta-vritti-nirodah.  Yoga is realized when identification with the fluctuations of the mind ceases.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    -Yoga Sutras I:2
“Jati desa kala samayanavacchin0nah sarvabhauma mahavratam.  The Great Vows are universal, not limited by class, time or circumstance.”                                                                                                                                                                                                    -Yoga Sutras II:31
Ashtanga means yoga following the 8-limb path, as elucidated by Patanjali in his yoga sutras.  The 8 limbs begin with guidelines for interacting with others and finish with ultimate bliss and Self-realization.  They show us the path for gaining control of the mind and escaping constant mental clutter and emotional ups and downs.  The 8 limbs are yama (social discipline), niyama (individual discipline), asana (the physical practice we all think of as yoga), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense control), Dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (self-realization).

The Yamas are the first limb of Ashtanga yoga and are meant as guidelines for how we interact with society.  They are social, moral codes thought of as great, universal vows.  The yamas are:

  • Ahimsa: Non-harming.  Do not cause pain to others through thought, word, or action.
  • Satya: Truthfulness.  Be true to yourself and to others, always and without exception.
  • Asteya: Non-stealing.  Do not take what isn’t yours.
  • Brahmacharya: Moderation/Continence.  Practice moderation sexually and materially.
  • Aparigraha: Greedlessness.  Do not desire that which isn’t yours and don’t hoard.

The purpose of the yamas is to begin to focus your intention and purify the mind and body.  Undertaking these moral restraints is the first step in trying to live yoga.  Think about your efforts as creating positivity and fairness in your own life and the world.

2. Niyamas: Personal Discipline

“Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho.   As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.”
-Sanskrit saying common in India

“Yoganganusthanad asuddhi ksaye jnandiptir a vivekhyateh.  By the practice of the limbs of yoga, the impurities dwindle away and there dawns the light of wisdom, leading to discriminative discernment.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                              -Yoga Sutras II:28

tree outside the retreat in India, sunlight peaking through the cracks.
The Niyamas are the 2nd limb of Ashtanga yoga, after the yamas.  The Niyamas are guidelines for how you should treat yourself and how to develop and improve your personal qualities.  Whereas the yamas present guidelines for how we should treat others, the niyamas tell us how to treat ourselves, moving us ever so slightly deeper along the path towards enlightenment.  The niyamas are:
  • Shauca: Cleanliness/Purity.  Keep your self (internally and externally) and your environment clean.
  • Santosha: Contentment.  Distinguish between true happiness that comes from doing good and happiness that comes at the expense of others.  Distinguish between temporary and lasting happiness.  Practice being a content and joyful person for the benefit of all.
  • Tapas: Discipline.  Tapas means fire.  It is our burning desire and dedication to the practice of yoga.
  • Svadhyaya: Study of the Self.  Are you implementing the morality you know is right?  Continual work on one’s self to become a better person.
  • Ishvara Pranidhana: Devotion to God.  Be grateful, every single day for your life.  Have faith in your dedication to yoga.

The niyamas are further methods of refining your person and preparing yourself for the path of yoga. They prepare us for the next limb of yoga, the asana practice and for eventually moving onto the more internal limbs of Ashtanga.  Think of them as practices that will help you become the person you want to be.

3. Asana: The Postures

Julie Kirkpatrick from Jivamukti.
Julie Kirkpatrick from Jivamukti.

“Sthira sukham asanam.  Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.”                                                                                                                                                         -Yoga Sutras II:46

“The Hatha yogis realized that by developing control of the body through asana, the mind is controlled.  When you practice asana, steadiness develops, prana moves freely, and there is less chance of disease occuring”                                                                    -Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Asana is the physical practice of yoga.  It is the postures that we take to strengthen the body, activate and detoxify our internal systems, and prepare us for moving deeper into the practice and study of yoga.  It is what most of us think of when we think of yoga, and often the first element of yoga that we are introduced to.  As the mind becomes more calmed through the physical practice, the desire to learn more about yoga and travel deeper along the 8 limb path happens naturally.  When we do asana, we quiet the mind and control the body to open our consciousness and breakdown the separation we feel from everyone else.  We take an internal gaze and approach the postures with humility and grace as an act of purification, transformation, and devotion.  The asana practice can be physically demanding and vigorous like the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught, or restorative and completely relaxing.  I like to think of my asana practice as a daily practice… it keeps me coming!

4. Pranayama: Control of the Breath

Prana is life force.  It is our vital energy and our breath.  It sustains life and creation and permeates all the layers of ourselves and the world.  Yama means control.  Pranayama is breath control.
Pranayama is control of the breath for the sake of going deeper within and gaining mastery over the body and mind.  It is the 4th limb of Ashtanga yoga.
When we practice pranayama, we focus and regulate the breath, taking control of those involuntary actions within the body. When you focus your attention on the breath, the mind has no choice but to follow, bringing one-pointed attention and concentration. The benefits of practicing prananyama are multi-fold, ranging from the purification of the gross, physical body to the toning of the subtle, spiritual self.  Patanjali writes, “Tatah ksiyate prakasavaranam. As its result, the veil over the inner Light is destroyed” (Yoga Sutras II:52), meaning that pranayama helps to destroy the illusion of separateness and give way to the shining light of union within each of us.
In the practice of yoga there are many pranayama practices, like Nadi Shodhanai (Alternate Nostril breathing), Kappalalbhati (Skull Shining breath), an Ujjayi (Victorious breath). Ujjayi breath should be practiced while doing asana, whereas Nadi Shodhana and Kappalbhati should be practiced while sitting in a meditative seat before or after the asana practice.
If you want to begin to tap into breath control and begin to harness your mind and strengthen your body through pranayama, begin to pay attention to your breath. Try to even out your inhales and exhales and slow down your breathing without straining. Notice how when your stressed or nervous, your breath becomes very shallow and taking a deep breath can instantly set the mind a ease.

5. Pratyahara: Sense Withdrawl

sense withdrawl doesn't meant you can't stop to smell the roses. from my mom's garden.

sense withdrawl doesn't meant you can't stop to smell the roses. from my mom's garden.

Pratyahara means sense withdrawl. It is the practice of withdrawing the senses from outside stimulation for the purpose of focusing on your internal development. As Sharon and David write, “Through pratyahara we can journey from outer fixation to inward revelation” (Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul). Essentially, the senses bring information into the mind, creating how we view the world. Our senses intake so much and fill our minds with so much outside stimulation that it can distract us away from our spiritual development. If we focus on the superficial differences that our senses relate to us, we forget the true universality of all.

Withdrawing the senses back to their source is the next step in subtly refining yourself for experiencing the unity of yoga and the changelessness that is truth. It quiets the mind and retains prana within the body. When the senses are under your mastery, you are free from the control of the external and can understand and experience happiness as coming from within. After the sense are mastered, you can begin to refine the mind for the practice of concentration and meditation, the next limbs on the 8 limb path of Ashtanga yoga. Practice quieting down, emptying your mind, and controlling the reactions and mental fluctuations that come from sense experience.

6. Dharana: Concentration

practice, practie, practice.... working on my arm balancing... unrealated

practice, practie, practice.... working on my arm balancing... unrealated but cool.

“Desbandhas cittasya dharana. Dharana is the binding of the mind to one place, object or idea.” -Yoga Sutras III:1

Dharana is the 6th limb of Ashtanga yoga and takes us from the external to the internal. Dharana means concentration and it is the precursor for meditation. Before we can actually meditate, we have to be able to concentrate and hold one-pointed focus. The ability to concentrate has been developed by the previous limbs; the body has been made supple through Asana, the breath work under Pranayama has begun to focus the mind, and the senses have been directed away from outside stimulation through Pratyahara, but still concentration must be practiced before it seamlessly becomes meditation. The awareness draws us deeper and deeper within as the fluctuations of the mind begin to fall away. This limb is about assuming the mental focus and internal gaze neccessary to meditate.

7. Dhyana: Meditation

Rene Magritte's "The False Mirror."

Rene Magritte's "The False Mirror."

“Tatra pratyaikatanata dhyanam. Dhyana is the continuous flow of cognition toward that object.” -Yoga Sutras, III:2

Dhyana is meditation. It is the 7th limb of Ashtanga yoga. Sharon and David write, “It is an effortless state that can arise only after you have trained yourself to sit still and concentrate on one object without distraction” (Jivamukti Yoga). It is the realization of one-pointed focus, continuous and unbroken. It is merging with the object of meditation and transcending body consciousness. It is listening within and freeing the mind from thoughts. Meditation allows you to merge with the source and experience union. It frees you from the mental chatter and the fluctuations of the mind by revealing the truth within.

Meditation, like all of yoga, is a practice. It is extremely challenging, physically and mentally to sit still but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. There are endless methods to meditate, but they all begin with finding a comfortable seat. Once you have established your seat, whether it be in front of an altar or not, the choice of object to meditate on is endless. You can think about union, connection to God, repeat a sacred mantra, watch the breath, or focus on a chakra. Truly, you can meditate on whatever feels right to you and this may require trying out different methods. To meditate, simply sit down, close your eyes, draw your attention inward and be quiet.

Magritte... the meditator has become one with the object of meditation.

Magritte... the meditator has become one with the object of meditation.

8. Samadhi: Enlightenment

sky over the Nilgiris.

sky over the Nilgiris.

Samadhi is the final limb of Ashtanga yoga and the goal and purpose of yoga. It is the experience of truth, bliss, and ecstasy. It is Self-realization and enlightenment. It is the ultimate experience of union, merging with the source and truly understanding that we are all the same. In samadhi there is no distinction between knower, knowable and knowledge because there is no differentiation. If in Dharana we look at the water and Dhyana we are in the water, in Samadhi we have become the water. We are that which we meditate upon and so much more because we are limitless.

What does this mean to our physical form? Do we spontaneously burst at the moment of Samadhi or do we remain in our bodies? There are different levels of Samadhi and it can be both a temporary and permanent experience. In permanent, nirbija (seedless) samadhi we leave our bodies and and merge with the cosmos, however I think you can remain in your body in the experience of temporary samadhi and in the other levels of samadhi. Go find an enlightened being and ask them :).

60 Comments leave one →
  1. Shri Devi Chapman permalink
    August 21, 2010 3:29 pm

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog!!!

  2. Brian Donohoe permalink
    February 28, 2011 7:48 pm

    Beautiful site, comments, and spirit of yoga.

    I practice and teach in Alaska.

    Your site and images really resonate with me. Thanks for putting it out there.

    • November 27, 2011 8:27 pm

      I just saw your comment right now. Thank you so much. I’m so happy you like it.

  3. November 27, 2011 4:18 pm

    I’m inspired by your site.

  4. February 12, 2013 11:08 am

    Everything is very open with a precise clarification
    of the issues. It was definitely informative.
    Your site is extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  5. March 25, 2013 3:50 am

    It’s awesome designed for me to have a website, which is useful for my knowledge. thanks admin

  6. April 14, 2013 4:09 pm

    I go to see everyday some blogs and blogs to read articles, except this webpage gives feature based writing.

  7. June 27, 2013 5:59 pm

    Hi there to every one, it’s in fact a fastidious for me to pay a quick visit this site, it contains helpful Information.

  8. September 4, 2013 5:29 pm

    Take the time to learn how to properly apply the technique to pull this lift
    off by accessing the rest of my articles on the matter for
    free. The person that instructs Russian Kettlebell training is Pavel Tsatsouline.
    If you’re doing it with a lesser quality KB, you can count on tearing your hands up pretty
    quick.

  9. October 2, 2013 9:24 pm

    Hello I am so thrilled I found your webpage, I really found you by
    mistake, while I was researching on Askjeeve for something
    else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say many
    thanks for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love
    the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have book-marked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the superb job.

  10. October 4, 2013 11:48 am

    If you don’t feel the compensation is worth your time, skip
    it and move on. First, these surveys will not make you rich overnight or even
    over a year. It also helps keep your personal inbox clear of surveys.

  11. October 17, 2013 1:45 pm

    Their services are valuable to you simply because they take the guess work out of the training and nutrition your body needs to
    be healthy for life. If the your body fat is above 25%
    but below 30% (Women) or above 20% but below 25% ( Men) then you are overweight,
    you are carrying more fat around than you need or that is healthy for you and it probably means
    you are eating too much of the wrong foods. Of course, you should always consult your doctor for a thorough evaluation and prescription.

  12. October 17, 2013 2:22 pm

    The main focus should be hands and feet (that is, arms and
    legs) and should be developed via endurance rather than strength, as it’s more important to work your muscles
    longer than harder. The most significant quality of chalk is that
    it helps in preventing injuries. With high quality videos and a personalized program designed specifically for you, this app does everything for you that a personal trainer would.

  13. October 18, 2013 1:40 pm

    On top of this, unsaturated fats provide a slow release
    of energy, so unlike high sugar foods and refined carbohydrates,
    will keep you satiated for longer. It does not care
    where you live, but it certainly does seem to thrive on the way
    you live. That is why you only need to follow the above guidelines 90% of the time, which
    allows for 4-5 cheat meals per week.

  14. October 19, 2013 6:33 am

    There shouldn’t be Perspex or even glass amongst
    the dragon and also the light-weight due to the fact is going to clean every Uv light-weight
    that is definitely just for the dragon. Here you can get a newly born pet or if
    you would like, an older pet as well. Dragons that are captive tend to live a healthy and active life and are also free from pesticides as compared to the ones who are wild caught.

  15. December 6, 2013 1:56 pm

    However, by early next morning, in most cases you will notice that your weight has considerably
    dropped compared to where it was the previous night.
    It does not care where you live, but it certainly does seem to thrive on the way you live.
    Using a appetite suppressant will help to prevent hunger, which could result in you eating
    more cheat meals than you should.

  16. December 8, 2013 9:37 pm

    What’s up, yeah this post is truly pleasant and I have
    learned lot of things from it concerning blogging.

    thanks.

  17. December 11, 2013 6:47 pm

    You should also follow a healthy lifestyle: If you make
    a relatively small change in your whole lifestyle then there will be a big
    impact on the body and your health. It does not care where you live, but it certainly does
    seem to thrive on the way you live. Sunlight on un-protected skin produces a highly usable
    form of Vitamin D that lasts twice as long in
    your bloodstream as when you consume it through food or a
    supplement, but you still need caution due to the risk of
    skin cancer.

  18. December 15, 2013 6:08 pm

    Нey there уour web site url: http://kylemilleryoga.com/the-8-limbs/ seems to
    be redirecting to a completely different website when I clіck thе home-page link.
    Үou may want to have this looked at.

  19. January 16, 2014 9:45 am

    When I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me
    when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a
    comment is added I get four emails with the same comment.
    There has to be an easy method you can remove me from that service?
    Thank you!

  20. February 17, 2014 10:21 am

    Hi there, You’ve done an incredible job. I will definitely digg it and personally recommend to my
    friends. I am confident they’ll be benefited from this web site.

  21. April 6, 2014 1:00 pm

    continuously i used to read smaller content which as well clear their motive, and that is
    also happening with this article which I
    am reading at this place.

  22. April 17, 2014 9:57 pm

    It’s actually very difficult in this full of activity life to listen news on Television, so I simply usee the webb for that reason, and get the hottest information.

  23. April 18, 2014 9:27 am

    Whenever you want to buy or build a bird house you have take into account a few factors like whatever your plans, always use raw wood to
    make a birdhouse. The majority of the time, when your ex boyfriend texts
    you, it is with the pretense of casual, innocent
    conversation. Hannah and Elijah match one another so much because they
    feed off of one another’s toxic narcissism.

  24. April 21, 2014 10:49 am

    Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your
    articles? I mean, what you say is important and everything.
    But think about if you added some great visuals or video
    clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and
    videos, this blog could certainly be one of the most beneficial in its
    field. Wonderful blog!

  25. April 23, 2014 4:10 am

    What’s up, all the time i used to check web site posts here early in the break of day,
    for the reason that i love to learn more and more.

  26. April 23, 2014 1:49 pm

    Do you have a spam issue on this blog; I also am a blogger, and I was curious about your situation; we have created
    some nice procedures and we are looking to trade techniques with other folks, why not shoot me an e-mail if interested.

  27. April 30, 2014 3:36 pm

    Thanks for your write-up. I would also love to say that the
    first thing you will need to conduct is determine whether you really need fixing credit.
    To do that you need to get your hands on a duplicate of your credit score.

    That should really not be difficult, since government makes it necessary that you are allowed to
    receive one cost-free copy of the credit report yearly.
    You just have to check with the right men and women.
    You can either look into the website for the Federal Trade Commission as well
    as contact one of the leading credit agencies instantly.

  28. May 2, 2014 1:07 am

    This paragraph is truly a fastidious one it helps new
    web people, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

  29. May 9, 2014 4:57 pm

    My programmer is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP.
    I have always disliked the idea because of the expenses.

    But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using Movable-type on a variety of websites for about
    a year and am concerned about switching to another platform.
    I have heard great things about blogengine.net.
    Is there a way I can import all my wordpress content into it?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

  30. May 12, 2014 8:54 pm

    Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

  31. May 19, 2014 2:13 am

    Thanks for sharing such a nice idea, post is fastidious,
    thats why i have read it fully

  32. May 20, 2014 8:50 pm

    Companies claiming to be the so-called SEO expert are leaving
    no efforts to grab attentions from these site owners, but how worth are they in actual practice.
    No search engine is going to look at well written content and decide ‘this doesn’t have bold keywords, so it must be worse than this other piece of
    worse content’ nor is it going to decide ‘this article is 200
    words longer than the previous article, so it must be worse.
    However, if approached wrong, a blog can bury
    rankings for an entire website.

  33. May 28, 2014 10:50 pm

    I do accept as true with all of the concepts you have
    presented on your post. They’re really convincing and
    will definitely work. Still, the posts are very short for starters.
    Could you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time?
    Thank you for the post.

  34. May 29, 2014 10:56 am

    While Skype will naturally hide old information, there’s no real point to keeping months worth of conversations on hand.
    You will also eventually need to pay a subscription fee, but your trial Skype
    subscription lasts for quite a while. She arrived
    at me and said ‘I have to get ample votes to win this’.

  35. June 7, 2014 11:00 am

    Hi and thank you for the actual blog post ive recently been searching about this
    specific advice on-line for sum hours these days. many thanks.

  36. June 8, 2014 9:20 am

    We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.

    Your web site offered us with valuable info
    to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and our
    entire community will be grateful to you.

  37. June 8, 2014 10:44 am

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of
    the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is useful.
    Thanks for sharing!

  38. June 17, 2014 6:11 am

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before
    but after going through some of the posts I realized
    it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely pleased I
    came across it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking
    back regularly!

  39. June 19, 2014 7:08 pm

    In other cases, users had pre-existing health problems. Market for Wellness
    Programs and Their Impact on Pharmaceutical, Diagnostic
    and Device Product Markets -. Then build a tiny frame which
    you can hang a valance from where you can curtain on both sides of the bed.

  40. June 20, 2014 5:41 pm

    Inside will be very convincing fake Prada or other designer bags that look as if they’ve fallen off the
    truck. Womens career wear just keeps getting better each season.
    Simply because about this there has long been an upward
    movement as regards benchmarks and global requirements.

  41. June 21, 2014 4:57 am

    Ԍood info. Lucky me I reϲentlƴ found your website by accident
    (stumbleupon). I’ve savedd it for later!

  42. June 22, 2014 3:08 am

    I absolutely love your site.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself?
    Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my very own blog and want to find out where you got this from or
    just what the theme is named. Cheers!

  43. July 1, 2014 8:19 pm

    Thanks for finally talking about >The 8 Limbs | Kyle Miller Yoga <Loved it!

  44. July 5, 2014 6:59 am

    D&G and Prada revealed creative, standout daytime clutches
    in their collections.
    So where can you find an excellent selection of low-cost designer
    sunglasses both prescribed and non-prescription?

  45. July 11, 2014 9:46 am

    Profitable monsters upon members worlds are generally mainly Slayer monsters plus Dragons.
    This way more and more buyers find your products and you reach to more and more customers.
    The young plants of this variety, usually respond well
    to all kinds of growing techniques.

  46. August 30, 2014 7:58 am

    What’s up, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this article.
    It was funny. Keep on posting!

  47. September 9, 2014 7:55 am

    Interestingly, you don’t need to give up on success
    in order to be happy. The most important rule is to
    have fun and enjoy what you do. It is easy to lose your sense
    of gratitude in a world full of bustling cities, busy people, and
    technology that even tells you when to take a bathroom break.

  48. September 24, 2014 12:49 am

    My family members always say that I am killing my
    time here at web, but I know I am getting knowledge every day
    by reading thes nice articles or reviews.

  49. September 26, 2014 12:33 pm

    Howdy! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone!
    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Carry on the great work!

  50. October 1, 2014 9:59 am

    We’re a gaggle of volunteers and starting a brand new
    scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable information to work on. You have performed a formidable
    process and our whole community shall be thankful to you.

  51. October 12, 2014 3:06 am

    Hey there, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues.

    When I look at your blog in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening
    in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.

    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, amazing blog!

  52. October 17, 2014 4:25 am

    Thanks for finally talking about >The 8 Limbs | Kyle Miller Yoga <Liked it!

  53. October 29, 2014 8:23 pm

    If yߋu can’t think of anything to say make a small joke
    out of it. ” what she really wants to know is, are you home by yourself or with somebody (and who. It’s easy to see why a woman like you might find it hard to make a man fall in love.

Trackbacks

  1. What Type of Yogi Are You? « Kyle Miller Yoga
  2. Meditation for Non-Meditators | My Best Yoga
  3. Meditation for Non-Meditators |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Find online and local Yoga Classes
Online Nursing Programs
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 83 other followers