The Eight Limbs of Yoga

By Lynn Felder, RYT

There’s a lot more to yoga than asanas/postures. There’s more to yoga than Tadasana and sun salutations. There’s even more to yoga than savasana (final relaxation). In fact, there are eight aspects — or limbs — of yoga.

We touch on most of them in most every class, but we rarely call them by name. One of my favorite things to tell newcomers to yoga, especially the really skittish ones, is that if you can breathe, you can do yoga. Here’s what I mean. Here are the Eight Limbs of Yoga — and the word Ashtanga means Eight Limbs.

The disciplines
1. Yamas: codes of ethical behavior and right living.
a) Ahimsa — non-violence
b) Satya — truthfulness
c) Asteya — respect for others’ property (non-stealing)
d) Brahmacharya — responsible sexual behavior
e) Aparigraha — generosity (non-hoarding)

2. Niyamas: personal practices
a) Sauca — cleanliness of mind and body (and speech)
b) Santosa — contentment
c) Tapas — austerity
d) Svadhyaya — self-awareness
e) Isvarpranidhana — devotion to a higher power

3. Asanas: the yoga postures (control of the physical body)

4. Pranayama: the arts of breathing and directing energy inward (breath control)

5. Pratyahara: the withdrawal of the senses

The attainments
6. Dharana: focused concentration

7. Dhyana: meditation

8. Samadhi (the fruit of yoga): the state of total absorption, union with the divine, bliss

The rishis, the wise people who developed yoga nearly 5,000 years ago, did 1 through 5 to achieve 6 through 8, so the asanas, while certainly wonderful in and of themselves, are, in many ways, stepping stones on the journey to a richer interior life.

Sometimes we work from the inside out. Sometimes we work from the outside in. Whichever way you choose, enjoy the journey.

Listen for the invitation, and follow your bliss.


Copyright by Lynn Felder August 2006. Lynn Felder is an award-winning journalist, a yoga teacher registered with the Yoga Alliance and the author of the DVD “Gentle Yoga for Cancer Patients,” available at

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