Around 500 BC Sage Patanjali taking materials about yoga from older traditions, wrote the Yoga Sutras, texts containing 196 Sutras in Sanskrit. In this book we find the Yoga of Eight Limbs or Eight Fold path known as Asthanga Yoga.
Each of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are explained here in some detail
Eight Limbs of Ashtanga yoga
- Yama यम (Principles or moral code)
o Ahimsa अहिंसा - A principle of non-violence
o Satya सत्य - A principle of Truthfulness
o Asteya अस्तेय - A principle of non stealing
o Brahmacharya ब्रह्मचर्य - Continence / Celibacy
o Aparigah अपरिग्रह - A principle of non-hoarding or non possessiveness
- Niyama नियम (Personal Disciplines)
o Shoucha शौच - Purity
o Santosh सन्तोष - Contentment
o Tapa तपस - Endurance
o Swadhyaya स्वाध्याय - Self study
o Eshwar Pranidhan ईश्वरप्रणिधान - Dedication
- Asana आसन (Yoga Positions or Yogic Postures)
A stable and comfortable posture which helps attain mental balance. The posture that causes pain or restlessness is not a yogic posture.
Patanjali does not list any specific asana, only the suggestion " a posture one can hold with comfort being steady and motionless".
- Pranayama प्राणायाम (Yogic Breathing)
Consciously regulating the breath by extending and controlling it.
- Pratyahara प्रत्याहार (Withdrawal of Senses)
A mental preparation to increase the power of the mind.
- Dharana धारणा (Concentration on an Object)
Concentration of one's mind on a particular object and its field.
- Dhyana ध्यान (Meditation)
The next stage of Dharana. Releasing the mind from all external distractions and focusing on one thought or mantra or breathing rhythm and meditating on it.
- Samadhi समाधि (Salvation)
State of Super bliss, joy and merging individual consciousness with the universal consciousness.
The Yoga Sutras
Each of the 196 Sutras forms one statement. To understand these Sutras an extended knowledge of Sanskrit and yoga philosophy is needed. They are written in a very compressed manner, therefore it takes a lot of time to properly study and understand them.
Yoga Sutras are divided in to four chapters.
• I - Samadhi Pada – 51 Sutras.
• II – Sadhana Pada – 55 Sutras.
• III – Vibhuti Pada – 56 Sutras.
• IV – Kaivalya Pada – 34 Sutras.