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8 limbs of yoga

The word ‘yoga’ means to connect, unite or ‘yoke’. The thing we look to connect to is the true Self, also known as the ‘divine essence’, ‘ultimate self’, or atman. You might also think of this as the soul.

If that way of thinking doesn’t resonate with you, then consider that the word yoga can also mean separation or disentanglement. The thing we’re disentangling from is whatever stops us from feeling free, as the ultimate goal of any yoga practice is to attain moksha, meaning liberation or freedom.

So how does one go about attaining this freedom through yoga? Does it come at the cost of an expensive pair of yoga pants? Can you reach it by signing up to a detox retreat or finally touching your toes? Probably not…

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is an eight-fold path leading to liberation, known as the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ (the word ‘ashta’ means ‘eight’ and ‘anga’ means ‘limb’).

What are the 8 Limbs of Yoga?

  • 1. YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows

  • 2. NIYAMA – Positive duties or observances

  • 3. ASANA – Posture

  • 4. PRANAYAMA – Breathing Techniques

  • 5. PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal

  • 6. DHARANA – Focused Concentration

  • 7. DHYANA – Meditative Absorption

  • 8. SAMADHI – Bliss or Enlightenment

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