the 8 Limbs of Yoga
The Yoga Sutras may have been written in loose form over 4,000 years ago probably compiled from an older oral tradition. The Indian sage Patanjali is said to have assembled them into one text around 2,000 years ago.

Here we find the 8 limbs of yoga (Ashtanga) (not to be confused with the modern ashtanga yoga style). These ancient aphorisms can still be used as a guide to the practice of yoga.

The first four limbs of yoga, Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama help prepare to experience the last four, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, which focus more on the higher self.


The 5 yamas – outer - abstentions - ethical standards and ways of behaving.






non-violence against one’s self or others, in actions or thoughts

truthful with one’s self and others

non-covetousness, non-grasping, taking only what is necessary

non-stealing, thoughtful in what is yours, not betraying trust

continence, abstinence, restraint, responsible behaviour


The 5 niyamas - inner - behaviour and observances





Isvara Pranidhana

cleanliness, purity of body and thoughts

contentment and modesty

balance between body and mind, spiritual austerity, physically fit

self awareness study of sacred texts and oneself by reflection

surrender, devotion, accepting what happens

The postures (the asanas of Hatha Yoga) and the movements between postures foster a strong fit and flexible physical body to prepare for deeper meditation.

Controlling body and mind by control (yama) of breath and life force (prana). Pranayama increases strength, fitness, calm, lung capacity, decreases stress, helps us focus, and brings the inner self into balance with the world outside.

Pratyahara (withdrawing from the senses). Moves awareness away from sensations of the outer world and toward the inner self where we experience our selves more deeply and intimately and ultimately find our true self.

Dharana (concentration) brings a richer awareness of the mind. The previous limbs prepare for this by creating peace and balance so every thought or influence is met with a totally open mind, body and spirit without the influence of preconceptions, prejudice, conditioning, fear, anxiety, joy or sorrow. We meet every moment with our true selves.

In Dhyana (meditation) moves beyond Dharana into a state of total awareness. Concentrating on a focus point, while remaining aware of everything else outside and within. The mind and body are quiet and open.

Samadhi (enlightenment) is a state of ecstasy, bliss, transcendence of the self. Joining with all living things, with the universe, with the Divine. This is a state beyond knowledge, beyond worldly things, realising that everything is of the same substance and is connected. – This is yoga (union).