The Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga

The Yoga Sutras, compiled more than 1,500 years ago by the Indian sage Patanjali, are foundational to yoga as we know it today. In fact, they are the thread that connects the various schools and lineages of yoga, including Kripalu Yoga. In the sutras, Patanjali outlines the eight limbs of yoga, the eightfold path of spiritual growth and self-discovery. These limbs are ethical guidelines on how to live a vibrant, meaningful life, and they are just as relevant to contemporary practitioners as they were to the seekers back in the time of Patanjali.

Asana (yoga postures) is arguably the most well-known of the limbs, but it’s only a part of the story, for this path offers so much more. Each of the eight limbs addresses a different aspect of our multifaceted being, and together they act as a road map to what we call “yoga off the mat.”

The eight limbs are

1. Yama: character-building restraints

2. Niyama: character-building observances

3. Asana: physical postures

4. Pranayama: breath regulation

5. Pratyahara: introversion

6. Dharana: initial stage of meditation as one-pointed concentration by a subjective observer on a chosen object

7. Dhyana: intermediate stage of meditation as the flow state between subjective observer and a chosen object

8. Samadhi: advanced stage of meditation wherein the subjective observer and a chosen object are mediating an experience of Oneness.

In this video, Micah Mortali, Director of Outdoor Education and Programming at Kripalu, and the Dean and Founder of the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership, explains more about the eight-limbed path.