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Astanga of Yoga - eight limbs

The Astanga of Yoga

The `astanga`, eight limbs or aspects of yoga were formally proposed by Patanjali, C2nd century CE,  author of the `Yoga-Sutras` and the founder of what we now regard as `classical yoga`.  All forms of yoga with their varying emphases incorporate these eight aspects.

YAMA – the moral disciplines and awareness of our responsibilities to others, the environment and the world in general.  Practise the yama daily in your relationships and way of life.

NIYAMA – the self disciplines , the way in which you care for your physical body through diet and cleanliness, but also personal study and spiritual awareness.

ASANA – the postures and exercises which often assume overwhelming importance in modern yoga.  It is important to remember that the aim of physical health, fitness and strength is to be able to use the body as a vehicle on the road of yoga.

PRANAYAMA – the control of prana or life energy in the body, often considered narrowly to be about breath control (yama) or extension (ayama).

PRATYAHARA – withdrawing the senses or external distractions is the first obvious stage focusing on mental control.

DHARANA – concentration is the stage at which we learn to focus the mind on one object, mantra or point of stillness.

DHYANA – meditation, is often a point of concern for many yoga students who are told it might lead to all sorts of dangerous situations.  In actuality meditation is the process where following success in stilling the mind a sense of profound peace, stillness and focus can develop. A common experience is the progression from concentrating on the object of dharana to a point where the object and the meditator lose all sense of difference and in that progression may move through to –

SAMADHI – the sense of bliss, nirvana or heaven; an experience beyond words.


The cloth of the renunciate.