The Eight Limbs of Yoga- More than just Asana

Ashtanga yoga is the bases for many yoga classes and Vinyasa yoga. It is more than just asana, but a lifestyle. Here a descriptions and journal entry from a graduate of the teacher training offered here at Burning Spirits Yoga

There are 8 limbs of yoga. The first limb is Yama or moral discipline. Yama consists of five aspects:  Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non stealing), Brahmacharya (right use of energy), and Aparigraha (non greed or non hoarding). These have to do with disciplines and relationships in the world. I feel that I started these practices off the mat with AA and yoga helps me to really live these values. I can bring these vows into my life by working more on Aparigraha. I would like to continue practice and overcome a fear of scarcity. I has been interesting to watch my grip loosen as I learn more.

The second limb is Niyama. Niyama is more internal, it has to do with positive duties directed towards ourselves. There are five Niyamas: Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (discipline or burning desire or conversely, burning of desire), Svadhyaya (self-study or self-reflection, and study of spiritual texts), and Isvarapranidaha (surrender to a higher power). I can bring these into my lives more by focusing more on Saucha. I still am working at cleanliness and hope to take better care and more respect of my body.

The third limb is Asana or posture. This has to do with the physical aspect of yoga. While it is mostly referred to as poses for sitting meditation, suggesting the pose be steady and comfortable. It is interesting to think of it solely for sitting meditation as I have yet to find a position I can truly rest in during a 20 minute meditation.

The fourth limb is Pranayama or breathing technique. We practice it through breath control or as I just learned the other interpretation would be freedom of the breathe. I practice breathe restraint and focusing on maintaining a steady Ujjayi breath through my mat practice, but there are many more techniques to learn. I am still working on the steadiness of Ujjayi. Growing up with ashtma, I’ve always had a difficult time with the breath and this limb alone has really changed how I deal with stress and working on appreciating my body and feeling more in control.

The fifth limb is sense withdrawal. By withdrawing from anything the body wants to observe and react to.  I think my body is anxious to not be hyper-aware of my surroundings. It is soothing to feel and have a safe place to practice these techniques in a class.

The sixth limb is Dharana or focused concentration. This brings to mind drishti throughout the practice or focusing on the breath. Drishti points have grown and I would like to focus on them more and learn the correct points for more poses. I realize the more I practice on the mat, the easier some aspects of getting things done are off the mat.

The seventh limb is Dhyana or meditative absorption. This seems to be the expectation of truly meditating. When you are a part of the experience. It is so hard for me to let go of judgement of my own practice. I think this is an aspect that gets in the way of feeling the serenity. Reading about this as the seventh limb, I am able to see how that build on one another.

The eighth limb is Samadhi bliss or enlightenment. The breakdown of this word means to “see equally”.  The idea of bliss has the connotation of being excessively joyful, but after reading more about it, it seems as though this is a fleeting of state of being unless the mind is truly ready. I interpret it as a shift in perception and being to see life as it really is…. and being ok with that it.


Chelsey Fowler