In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life.
1. Yamas – ethical standards, moral restraints that guide our life, not-to do’s
Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury. Compassion towards all living beings.
Satya: truthfulness, appropriate communication, honesty in word and action.
Asteya: non-stealing, cultivating less materialistic view of life. Brahmacharya: continence, moderation, avoiding the indulgence of the senses.
Aparigraha: non-greediness, separating true needs from desires and wants.
2. Niyamas – self-discipline and spiritual observances, to-do’s
Saucha: cleanliness, purity. Physical, surrounding, diet and purity of thinking. Santosa: contentment, being satisfied with and appreciating what we have.
Tapas: austerity, practice that involve purification, self-discipline and build character.
Svadhyaya: self-study leading to self-discovery. Formal and informal studies.
Isvara pranidhana: surrender to God, honouring a higher force, or an ideal.
3. Asana – physical exercise. Asanas are the postures practiced in yoga. As the body is a temple of spirit, it is important to take care of it. Through the practice of asanas, we purify the body, develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate.
4. Pranayama – breathing exercise. Pranayama is the control of the breath aimed at cultivating the vital force called prana within.
5. Pratyahara – withdrawal from senses, drawing awareness away from external world and detachment from senses.
6. Dharana – concentration, learning how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object, a specific energetic centre in the body, an image of a deity, or the silent repetition of a sound (mantra).
7. Dhyana – meditation or contemplation, the uninterrupted flow of concentration.
8. Samadhi – a state of ultimate joy, fulfillment, self-realisation, where the meditator realises the profound connection to the Divine.