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get to know the 8 limbs of yoga: intro and first limb

A fundamental teaching from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is that your body and mind are essential tools on the journey to liberation. Used for thousands of years as a guide to achieving the enlightened state known as samadhithis text is also understood as the philosophical cornerstone to Yogis across the globe. The teachings are straightforward, practical and inclusive, claiming that every human is capable of achieving freedom at his/her own pace. 

The word sutra is Sanskrit for string or thread, referring to the collection of short aphoristic statements of which The Yoga Sutras are comprised of. These statements are arranged in four chapters or books referred to as Padas, which is Sanskrit for foot. Samadhi Pada, book one, is the portion on contemplation and theory; Sadhana Pada, book two, is the portion on practice; Vibhuti Pada, book three, the portion on accomplishments or special powers; Kaivalya Pada, book four, the portion on absoluteness and liberation, the end stage. 

Samadhi Pada essentially outlines the aim of Yoga as control of the mind stuff/thought forms referred to as the citta vrtti. In this chapter the different categories of thought forms are explained and practices to control them are laid out. It is made very clear that achieving samadhi is no small undertaking and not for the faint of heart. Although the path it is not easy, there is a lot of action you can take to prepare by laying a proper foundation and building on it, one step at a time.  Sadhana Pada contains simple directions on how to achieve such a foundation. 

A key component to a good foundation on the Yogic path is adoption of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. First introduced in Sutra 28 of Book 2 these practices support the development of discernment, purification and the removal of obstacles so one can see clearly and progress toward the state of Samadhi. Each limb builds on the other, however they are all equal to the other in matter of importance on the path. 

The first limb is Yama, translated to mean restraints, ethics and abstinence. Essentially this limb covers ethics and the moral principles that govern a Yogis behavior which include; non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satyam), non-stealing (aseyam), control of sexual energy (bramacharya) and non-greed (aparigraha). It is important to note that the guidance is to adopt these moral principles in thought, word AND deed. For example, non-violence is understood as not causing pain which includes but is not limited to killing as it is possible to cause pain by thoughts and words as well. The idea being that as you establish these qualities in yourself, you will preserve your precious life force and bring positive vibrations wherever you go, helping to elevate everyone to a higher state. 

Whether you are a long time student of Yoga Sutra, or just getting started on your Yoga path, chattra invites you to contemplate on the yamas. Consider reflecting or journaling about a person you have met or been around who embodies one or more of the Yama: how did their presence affect you or others around you? If there was one yama you would choose to cultivate more consciously in yourself which would it be and why? How might you support yourself in doing so?

This is the first post as Jillian's reflects on the 8 limbs of yoga.  Please check back on the chattra blog as she considers the other 7 limbs.


about chattra blogger Jillian Bobwicz

Jillian is a yogini based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She leads weekly public yoga classes for adults and specializes in yoga for kids and families. Her studies have led her to complete trainings at YogaWorks, Karma Kids and Yoga Playgrounds. Jillian feels blessed to practice and teach yoga and is particularly passionate about empowering her students with tools to navigate the modern world with ease.

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