The Eight Limbs of Yoga
The concept of the eight limbs of yoga comes from the 29th Sutra of the 2nd book, and is a core characteristic of practically every Raja yoga variation taught today. Patanjali teaches that the way to achieve union with the divine is by following a path with eight progressive limbs
This is what I have learned and understand about the eight limbs
1. Yamas – Five ethical restraints or moral codes:
2. Niyamas – Five personal observances
3. Asanas – This is the word for the physical movements or poses of yoga practice in combination with breathing techniques. It is believed that mastering control of our bodies is the first step toward relieving the suffering that comes from attachment. Learn more about Asanas here.
4. Pranayama – an integral part of asana practice, used to develop mental, physical and spiritual strength. In yoga, pranayama techniques are used to control the movement of prana through control of one’s breathing. Prana is vital energy, not breath—its most subtle material form is the breath, but prana is also in blood and other bodily fluids. Prana is believed to flow through a network of channels in the body (nadis). Read more about Pranayama here.
5. Pratyahara - This means to draw one’s attention inward and away from the distractions of the outside world. This will induce calm. But before the mind can turn in on itself, all connections with the external world must be severed. Only then is self-discovery possible. This is not about controlling or enduring sensations, but being able to simply withdraw from them.
6. Dharana - This is to train the mind not to wander and to be able to concentrate so intently that one's mind can focus on a single point with the intent to know the truth about it. It is an active process that requires significant effort and is important for the last two limbs.
7. Dhyana - When we get to the point where Dharana just happens naturally, we have achieved the state of meditation. It's not really a technique but a state of mind - an unbroken stream of concentration transcending our human experience, allowing us to enter the various stages of unified communion with God. Practicing Dhyana enables a calm mind and brings about a heightened state of awareness and an ability to look at the world without distractions
8. Samadhi - This is a Sanskrit term meaning the same as - or at one with - the Highest (Self). It is a transcendental state where our concept of who we are - our thoughts, feelings, sense of awareness and our entire mental structure - unite with the Universal Consciousness. This highest state of consciousness in yoga is also called super or cosmic consciousness, nirvana, and even enlightenment.