The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Every student of yoga at some point learns about the Eight Limbs of Yoga which are outlined in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. As I was cleaning out and organizing stacks of my notes yesterday, I came across this wonderful interpretation by Paramahansa Yogananda.

Bear in mind that volumes upon volumes of commentaries have been written throughout the centuries on each one of these limbs, and yet here is a brief summary that is accessible, easy to follow, and which also lays out the basic tenets of Kriya Yoga as taught by Yogananda.

The roots of this ancient yogic science, described in both the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita, are easily evident to those who have initiated into its sacred mysteries. Recently, as I re-read both texts in preparation for various presentations, I marveled at the insights these sutras from two very ancient scriptures now yielded as I considered them from a different perspective and from an established sitting practice in a particular lineage.

  1. Avoid unrighteous behavior - yama.
  2. Follow certain moral and spiritual precepts - niyama.
  3. Learn to be still in body and mind, for where motion ceases, there begins the perception of God - asana.
  4. While concentrating on the state of peace, practice control of the life force in the body - pranayama.
  5. When your mind is your own, that is, under your control through pranayama, then you can give it to God - pratayahara.
  6. Then begins meditation: first, concentrate on one of God's cosmic manifestations such as love wisdom, joy - dharana.
  7. What follows in meditation is an expansion of the realization of God's infinite omnipresent nature - dhyana.
  8. When the soul merges as one with God, who is ever existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss, that is the goal - samadhi.

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