Eight Limbs of Yoga

Take Me To The River Yoga ascribes to the classic teachings of the yoga tradition and believes we should develop a greater awareness of ourselves and our place in the world. We concentrate on the study and practice of the eight limbs of yoga, as known by their Sanskrit names: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

Our western view has been that yoga is a mysterious form of exercise involving stretching and some weird cult or religion. It has been looked upon as an odd form of gymnastics or calisthtenics, whereby success is achieved when the practitioner can contort the body into a human pretzel!

Thankfully a broader view of yoga has emerged as more people experience the many types of yoga that we now have available to us. The unwarranted threat that we will somehow “lose our religion” and end up spiraling into the hell of false gods has started to subside. Yoga continues to gain credibility as thousands of yoga studios spring up around the nation to help people with all manner of physical, emotional and psychological challenges. Yoga is just a way to bring awareness to our whole selves.

There are many forms of yoga, many types of yoga classes and yoga teachers of all persuasions. It is important to sample different yoga classes to find the situation that best suits the needs, unique personality and overall goals of each individual student.

List of the YamasThe Eight Limbs of Yoga – very brief definitions

1. Yama – our social and moral code (5 yamas):

  1. Ahimsa – non-violence
  2. Satya – truthfulness
  3. Asteya – non-stealing
  4. Brahmacharya – non-excess
  5. Aparigraha – non-possessiveness

2. Niyama – our personal discipline and self study (5 niyamas):

  1. Saucha – purity
  2. Santosha – contentment
  3. Tapas – disciplined use of our energy
  4. Svadhyaya – self-study
  5. Ishvara-Pranidhana – surrender and devotion to a force higher than yourself

(Also see “Kriya Yoga” for a description of the three Niyamas).

3. Asana – the yoga postures and discipline of the body

4. Pranayama – a set of breathing techniques we use as tools in our yoga practice

5. Pratyahara – withdraw from the senses

6. Dharana – concentration

7. Dhyana – meditation on an object

8. Samadhi – oneness