Patanjali, writer of the classic yoga text The Sutras, developed the eight limbs of yoga as a guide to help yogis achieve the no thought mind (Unmani Mudra). The eight limbs are incredibly practical even today in the modern world as one delves deeper into a yoga practice for a life of greater peace and quiet, with a healthier mind and body. Though often reserved for teacher trainings, I use the limbs regularly to inform my own practice and teachings. The eight limbs of yoga are simple and easy to understand, yet much more difficult to incorporate into everyday life.
What are the eight limbs?
1. The Yamas: Ethics
- Ahimsa: Non-Violence, Compassion (towards one’s self and others)
- Asteya: Non-Stealing
- Satya: Truth
- Bramacharya: Sexual Restraint
- Aparigraha: Non-Hoarding
2. The Niyamas: Observances
- Saucha: Cleanliness or Purification (of body and mind)
- Tapas: Heat, Focus
- Svadyaya: Self-Study
- Santosha: Contentment
- Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender (to something higher than one’s Self)
Note: As I do with myself, I go through the yamas and niyamas with my students as well. We discuss which they feel that they are embracing and which they feel that they are not. The conversation continues on over time as we try to improve upon the yamas and niyamas we feel are weak.
3. Asana: The Postures
4. Pranayama: Breath Control
5. Pratyahara: Sense Withdrawal
6. Dharana: Concentration
7. Dhyana: One pointed Concentration
8. Samadhi: Transcendence of the mind and ego
And finally, Unamani Mudra, the no thought mind!