Yoga Sutras and Ashtanga Yoga

I thought it would be helpful to provide some introductory information on the Yoga Sutras and the eight-limbed path (Ashtanga Yoga).  This may seem like too much to process as a beginner on the yoga path, however I thought it would be helpful to introduce you to the 8 limbs since you may hear about them in yoga class or in your independent study of yoga.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Patanjali was a great sage who, in the 2nd Century BC, compiled 195 (some say 196) sutras divided into 4 chapters of divine spiritual wisdom.  The 4 chapters  of the Yoga Sutras contain:  the definition and purpose of yoga, the practical approach to achieving the goals of yoga, the powers of yoga and the nature of liberation.

Sage – a profoundly wise person
Sutra – a collection of aphorisms relating to some aspect of the conduct of life
Aphorism – a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation

In the 2nd book of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlines the practice of Ashtanga Yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga – eight-limbed yoga
Brief descriptions – each limb will be featured independently in future blogs

  1. Yama – moral codes, ethical disciplines – how to harmoniously interact with others
    –  Ahimsa – non-violence, harmlessness, kindness
    –  Satya – truthfulness – in words and thoughts
    – Asteya – non stealing, not taking what is not yours, not taking more than you need
    – Brahmacharya – sense control
    – Aparigraha – non-possessiveness, not hoarding
  2. NiYama – self observation and study – self discipline in the mind & body for achieving balance within oneself
    – Saucha – cleanliness in diet and practice
    – Santosha – contentment/embracing the moment for what is, whether enjoyable or difficult
    – Tapas – discipline, consistency
    – Svadhyaya – self study
    – Isvara Pranidhana – faith/trust in a higher being
  3. Asana – postures – the physical practice
  4. Pranayama – regulation or control of the breath; steadies the body and is helpful in quieting the mind preparing for the 6th limb of yoga (concentration);  Ujjayi Pranayama – Victorious breath control  – breathing technique used in Ashtanga Yoga
  5. Pratyahara – sense withdrawal, sense control – focus while unaware of outside distractions
  6. Dharana – concentration/focus
  7. Dhyana – meditation – the practice by which there is constant observation of the mind, focusing on one point and stilling the mind in an uninterrupted flow of concentration.
  8. Samadhi – liberation, enlightenment, contemplation, total absorption; to bring together, to merge the individual and collective consciousness.

Let me know if you have questions, thoughts, comments…. also see the link to the right of this page for a new yoga glossary we started – we will add to it as clarification and/or explanation is needed to further enhance your learning of all that is YOGA!



If you have an interest in the study of the Yoga Sutras, email me ( or leave me a comment and I will provide resources.


4 thoughts on “Yoga Sutras and Ashtanga Yoga

  1. This is really becoming more than I ever expected.
    This posting will enlighten the readers about what one can experience when they practice yoga. I am just starting to get it now and can envision where I will be at the end of this journey (well the end of the summer) with your guidance.

  2. Maureen
    This is beginning to make sense to me now. I remember reading (somewhere) during my research that Patanjali’s Sutra is considered the “Bible” of yoga. If you follow the eight limbs (steps) there will be a union of the body and mind, as well as a heightened sense of self-awareness. This is all achieved with a combination of postures, breathing, lifestyle changes/restraints, ethical values, and concentration:All combined=YOGA!
    Did I get that right?

  3. Sharon,
    YES! The ‘heightened sense of self-awareness’ is your true SELF, the spirit. Therefore, what you wrote can also be thought of the union on body, mind & spirit.
    I am so thrilled to be on this journey with you – even though I know you think I am the expert, for me it is about continuing to learn life lessons, every day, to integrate the body, mind & spirit more fully.
    Love you!

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