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The Eight-Limbs of Yoga

August 3, 2016

The Eight Limbs of Yoga


The opposite of hate is not love.The opposite of hate is non-hate; letting go and releasing, love naturally arises.


Yoga: the realization (in direct experience) of the preexisting union between the individual consciousness and the universal consciousness.


There are eights steps to that realization (the unraveling of the human mind to it's original state of oneness). Ashtanga, from the Sanskrit meaning eight-limbed, is the practice of following these traditional steps from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (not to be confused with the modern practice of Ashtanga Yoga where the asana practice is given more weight). The steps  are listed numerically, but the first six are undertaken together. Meditation won't occur until concentration is achieved, and  Samadhi won't occur until Kundalini has risen after, well, in most cases a lot of meditation. Here are the eight steps:


  1. Yama (yah-mah): the five restraints

  2. Niyama (nee-yah-mah): the five observance (in some traditions there are ten)

  3. Asana (ah-sah-nah) means seat. The physical asanas are practiced in order to sit at length in meditation (and also purify the nadis and bodies for clearer and stronger meditation). Meditation is the true seat. “Seat” also refers to the resting of consciousness in one place during the act of concentration and meditation.

  4. Pranayama (prah-nah-yah-mah) means control of breath, but  translates more fully as the understanding and steadiness of breath. Pranayama exercises help us oxygenate the brain, balance the nervous system, and still the mind—ready for the shallow and even breath of meditation.

  5. Pratyahara (praht-yah-ha-rah): withdrawal of the senses: The withdrawal of the senses from their objects is the opposite of the natural tendency of the mind. When the senses go out towards the world, they pull the mind out and away from the inner Self and create powerful waves on the lake of the mind. During meditation, the senses are drawn into the breath, the spine, the brain centres, the energy centres, and re-focused on the inner world. In time, the inner world becomes stronger and more inviting than the external. Pratyahara is the first step of Dharana.

  6. Dharana (dha-rah-nah): concentration, one-pointedness. The meditator is fully focused on the object of concentration, mind as still as the flame of a lamp in a windless room. When this state is maintained long enough, it will lead to Dhyana.

  7. Dhyana (dhee-yah-nah): meditation. A natural flow of consciousness between the meditator and the object of meditation. A wonderfully joyous state, natural and effortless, often compared to the flow of oil from one vessel to the next. When maintained long enough this state will lead to Samadhi.

  8. Samadhi (sah-mahd-hi): deep and perfect absorption; union. With concentration and meditation, there are three things: 1) observer, 2) action of observing, and 3) object that is being observed. With deep absorption, or Samadhi, it is as if these three collapse into only one. The three have merged into one, unbroken experience.




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© 2016 Kyeren Rowena