Patanjali wrote about the 8 Limbs of Yoga roughly 1,700 years ago as a path and way of living to follow towards enlightenment. They were composed of other ancient texts and were later almost forgotten until the revival of yoga hundreds of years later. The 8 Limbs teach us about mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing. Note that the physical practise (asana) is just one element!
1. Yama – relating to our actions and how we treat others
- Ahimsa: nonviolence
- Sataya: truthfulness
- Asteya: nonstealing
- Brahmachharya: intimate connection
- Aparigraha: noncovetousness
2. Niyama – self spirituality and how we treat ourselves
- Saucha: cleanliness of body and mind
- Santosha: contentment
- Tapas: disciplined use of our energy
- Svadhyaya: study of one’s self
- Isvara pranidhana: celebration of life
3. Asana – physical practise to prevent bodily disease and discipline
4. Pranayama – control of breath. Prana is breath or vital energy
5. Pratyahara – withdrawal from senses
6. Dharana – concentration, focus
7. Dhyana – awareness, meditation
8. Samadhi – state of ecstasy or enlightenment. Sometimes considered nirvana.
The practise of yoga is a journey and not all of these elements need be considered right away to the modern yogi. With regular practise, interest in these fundamentals will grow as your understanding of yoga deepens.