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What is Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga | Know what is 8 limbs of Yoga

8 limbs of yoga

What is Patanjali and why his ashtanga yoga is popular?

The word Patanjali is common to hear when one is intending to learn the Ancient art called Yoga.

To know more about Patanjali, it's of prime importance to know who is Patanjali.

Patanjali is said to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu's couch Adishesha.

In one of the legends, it is believed that Lord Vishnu was seated on Adishesha, the Lord of serpents as his couch, watching the dazzling dance of Lord shiva.

Lord Vishnu was totally preoccupied with the dance of Lord shiva, that his body began to vibrate to its rhythm. This vibration made him much heavier causing Adishesha to feel so uncomfortable that he was panting for breath and was almost on the state of collapse.

The moment the dance concluded, Lord Vishnu’s body became light again, Adishesha was amazed and asked his master the cause of these breathtaking changes.

The Lord explained that the elegance, beauty, majesty and magnificence of Lord Shivas dance had created proportionate vibrations in his own body, making it heavy. Marveling at this, Adishesha declared openly a desire to learn dance so as to exalt his lord. Vishnu then became thoughtful, and predicted that soon Lord shiva would grace Adishesha to write a commentary on Grammar, and that he would then also be able to devote himself to perfection in the art of dance. Adishesha became extremely happy by these words and looked forward to the descent of Lord shiva’s grace.

Adishesha then began to meditate to ascertain who would be his mother on earth. In meditation, he had the vision of a yogini by the name of Gonika who was praying for a worthy son to whom she could impart her knowledge and wisdom. He at once realized that she would be a worthy mother for him, and awaited an auspicious moment to become her son.

Gonika, thinking that her earthly life was nearing its end and that her desire of finding a worthy son would remain without fulfilled: now, as a last resort looked to the sun god, the living witness of God on earth and prayed to him to fulfill her desire. She took a handful of water as a final offering to Him, closed her eyes, and contemplated on the sun. As she was about to offer the water, she opened her eyes and looked at her palms. The moment she saw her palms, she was astonished to see a tiny snake moving in her palms, who took a form of a human. This tiny male human being prostrated to Gonika and asked her to accept him as her son. Gonika accepted this and named him Patanjali because her hands had been in the prayer gesture ( Anjali also called Anjali mudra ) and he had fallen (Pat) from heaven.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

Pathanjali, the author or compiler of the Yoga sutra, was a yoga adept who had made a masterful contribution to the yoga philosophy, by presenting a methodology deeply rooted in the culture and tradition in India. Of all the numerous schools of Yogic philosophy that existed in the same era, Patanjali's was one of the authoritative one.

Pathanjali gave the yoga tradition its classical format, and hence his school is referred to as classical yoga. It was Patanjali who coordinated yogic thought and explained to his students in the form of codified language of few words called sutras( just like modern formula)

The literal meaning of sutra is thread.

The Patanjali yoga sutra has 196 shlokas or aphorisms and the entire science of yoga is delineated in this.

The yoga sutra has 4 chapters:

1. Samadhi Padha

2. Sadhana Padha

3. Vibhui Padha

4. Kaivalya Padha.

The main goal of yoga according to Patanjali is “ Yoga Chitta vritti nirodah” which means Cessation of thought.

In other words, yoga aims to gain “ Mastery over mind” and to do this he emphasized on

Ashtanga Yoga or 8 Limbs of Yoga.

1.Yama: Yama is a universal commandment.

ashtanga yoga

Yama is about dealing with the external world

Yama has 5 aspects are:

A> Ahimsa:

The word himsa is to kill or Hurt and A means not, so Ahimsa talks about not to kill or hurt.

Ahimsa also states that one should not only avoid hurting physically but also refrain from hurting mentally as well.

Nonviolence is the personal practice of being harmless to self and others under every condition.

Any form of vengeance is violence and it is bound to bring sorrow for the doer.

The person who practices Ahimsa goes against the evil in the sinner, but not him. He dictates penance not punishment for a wrongdoer.

The person who practices the Ahimsa is known to be free from fear and anger.

B> Satya:

Satya is being truthful. Human has to become courageous to speak the truth under all circumstances. If the mind thinks thoughts of truth, if the tongue speaks words of truth and if the whole life is based upon truth, then one becomes eligible for union with the infinite.

“ Truth may hurt for a little while but a lie hurts forever”

C> Asteya:

The desire to possess and enjoy what another has, drives a person to do evil deeds. From this desire originates the urge to steal and the urge to covet. Asteya is not only to refrain from the act of stealing but it also includes not taking things belonging to others without permission.

D> Brahmacharya:

Brahmacharya is celibacy or continence according to Patanjali.

It is said that when one is established in brahmacharya, one develops a fund of vitality and energy, a courageous mind, and a powerful intellect so that he can fight any type of injustice.

Yoga says anything you are attracted through emotion must be first controlled and bring balance.

For example, you are attracted to the favorite food and end up eating in an uncontrolled way. This must be avoided and this is Brahmacharya.

E> Aparigraha:

Parigraha is hoarding or collecting. To be free from hoarding is aparigraha. Just as one should not take things one does not really need, so one should not hoard or collect things one does not require immediately. Neither should anyone take anything without working for it or as a favor from another, for this indicates the poverty of spirit.

By the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time.

2. Niyama:

Niyama is the rules of conduct that apply to individual discipline, while Yama is universal in their application.

8 limbs of yoga

The five Niyamas are:


Purity of the body is essential for well being. While good habits like bathing purify the body externally, asana and pranayama cleanse it internally.

The practice of asanas tones the entire body and removes the toxins and impurities caused by over-indulgence. Pranayama cleanses and aerates the lungs, oxygenates the blood and purifies the nerves.

But more important than the physical cleansing of the body is the cleansing of the mind of its disturbing emotions like hatred,over-ambition, anger, lust, greed, delusion, and pride.

Still more important is the cleansing of the intellect of impure thoughts.


Santosha is about being content and cultivating this habit is a must. A mind which is not content will not be able to focus properly. The person who is practicing yoga never feels that he has lost something and always stay at bliss.


Tapah is derived from the Sanskrit word tap which means hot or burning. Here it means a yogi after setting his goal towards a right cause must put all his effort ( burning effort ) without staying attached to results. We have witnessed many impossible feats achieved by ordinary people due to their efforts.


Sva means self and adhyaya is study. Svadhyaya is about always dedicated time to self-learning as this helps in self-improvement.

To keep ourselves healthy, cheerful and at bliss, it is necessary to study regularly self-helping books like divine literature in a pure place. The study of sacred books of the world will enable the sadhaka to concentrate upon and solve the difficult problems of life when they arise.

E>Ishvara Pranidhana:

Ishvara pranidhana is about trusting the lord and only put the efforts keeping a positive approach towards life.


The Asana are the Postures held for a certain duration considering three things in priority which is

1. Alignment - There has to be a precision in holding the posture

2. Breathing – The breathing as to be slow and rhythmic

3. Focus – Your eyes must be fixed on the gazing point to avoid wandering of the mind.

yoga asana

Yogis gave importance for two things while practicing asana that is the

1. The Spine flexibility – “ You are as young as your spine is flexible”. Asanas improve the spine flexibility which keeps the posture intact and enables the organs to work optimally. Patanjali mentioned this as “ Sthiram sukham asanam” which means Sthira – Steady, Sukham – Comfortable and Asana is Posture. The asana has to be steady and comfortable.

To do this we must first do some dynamic moves and suryanamaskar is the perfect answer for this.

The suryanamaskar consists of 12 powerful postures that involve bending the spine forward and backward synchronizing the breath.

2. There should be no fat Around Stomach – The practice of asana helps to reduce the fat and there are some asana known to strengthen the core. The fat around the abdomen obstructs the functioning of organs creating issues like digestion, metabolism, elimination of waste. The postures not only bring the fat down but also activates the organs and enables it to function smoothly.

“ A healthy body leads to a healthy mind”



The word Prana here refers to breath and Ayama meaning is lengthening. Pranayama is regulation or lengthening of breathing. We must have noticed that when we are anxious, worried, or emotionally hurt our breathing is rapid on the other hand if our mind is tranquil the breathing is slow and rhythmic.

It is believed that the slower and rhythmic the breathing is you are set free from diseases and also the longevity of a person is determined by the breathing rate. Pranayama is the deliberate control of breathing. If one has to control the mind first they must start by controlling their breath.


Pratyahara is the withdrawal of senses. Human beings are dependant on external things for happiness through the perception of senses. A tortoise withdraws its limbs and hides in a shell when it faces a threat from outside, similarly, a human must learn to find happiness by turning inwards rather depending on external things.

6. Dharana:

Dharana is intense concentration. When the mind is free from disturbing thoughts by the practice of Yama and niyama, tampered by the practice of asanas, when the breathing is controlled and the senses are controlled. A person is able to focus on any given task and accomplish it effectively.

A person with a high level of concentration has immense intellectual capabilities that he can solve any problems.

7. Dhyana:

Dhyana is an intense flow of concentration for a long duration.

When the oil is poured from one vessel to another vessel the flow of oil is continuos and there's no cut. Similarly in dhyana, the flow of concentration is continuous.

8. Samadhi:

Samadhi is a final stage of 8 fold path.

Samadhi is when a person is at the peak of his meditation. The person in a state of Samadhi is fully conscious and alert.

Patanjali Ashtanga yoga is the path which leads to the end of suffering. Those who adopt this are known to achieve distinction in their life.

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