Maharishi Patanjali’s eight limbs of Yoga


The author of Yoga Sutras, Maharishi Patanjali, divided life into eight fields – eight limbs or stages of yoga. These should be our guide in Yogic life. They lead us in the direction of full realization of ourselves and allow us to unite our body, mind, and spirit.

There are four outer limbs and four inner limbs.

  • Outer limbs reach to the Universe
  • And inner limbs reach our inner self.


Outer Limbs:

The outer limbs of yoga are making us aware of ourselves, and allow us to gain control over our body. They are:


1. Yama Principles – living our lives following natural moral codes. These are:

  • Ahmisa – nonviolence,
  • Satya – truthfulness,
  • Asteya – non-stealing,
  • Brahmacharya – celibacy (control over your sexual life) and
  • Aparigraha – non-covetousness (non-collecting, taking from nature only how much you really need).

These principles are social, directed towards nature and others. They focus on our behavior and are the first thing we should aim to purify.


2. Niyama Principles – more personal, directed towards our own life. The five Niyama codes are:

  • Saucha – purity. It includes hygiene, or purity of body, but also the purity of mind and thoughts,
  • Samtosa – contentment, acceptance of others and self, also acceptance of an inability to change things and an optimistic point of view,
  • Tapas – self-discipline, austerity or simple way of living,
  • Svadhyaya – the study of the self and accepting God as the only support in our life
  • Asana – Yoga postures, which are necessary to reach higher levels of yoga. It includes both, meditative and dynamic poses.
  • Pranayama – Yogic breathing. Breath is connected with the mind, and with the regulation of breath, the mind also becomes balanced.


Inner Limbs:

The inner limbs are directed towards the mind and consciousness, and they are:


  • Pratyahara – directing the attention towards the mind and its source, preparing for deep meditation. You are still aware of the world around you but are trying to detach from it. It helps us to observe ourselves, to see what we are doing wrong and also to recognize our cravings or other bad influencers on our physical and mental health. It is the transition from the inner and outer limbs.
  • Dharana – Steadiness Of Attention. The mind is focused on a mantra, an object one observes, or a particular thought. It stays focused on one thing, rather than jumping from one thing to another.
  • Dhyana – It is the reduction of mental activity, often also seen as meditation. It is continuous and uninterrupted. It contemplates the object of focus in Dharana and accepts it as it is, without focusing on specific ideas of it, becoming completely aware.
  • Samadhi – state of pure consciousness, reached with profound meditation – Yogi becomes one with the object of his meditation and the Universal spirit. There is no more distinction between them. He loses his ego and self-consciousness.


The purification of one limb directly influences others. Yoga translates as unity, an integration of all these aspects. When all of these obstacles are surpassed, one can reach Samadhi or superconsciousness. It should be the ultimate goal of every Yogi.


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