Yoga Philosophy

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are thought to have been authored by around the year 250 CE. Although they make little direct mention of yoga asana (body poses practices, they are often cited as the philosophical basis for what we think of and refer to as modern yoga. The Sutras outline eight “limbs” of yoga. Each limb relates to an aspect of achieving a healthy and fulfilling life, building upon the prior limb, creating a path for us to follow from the basic guidance of daily living to the achievement of enlightenment. The eight limbs are as follows:


1. Yama:

The complementary Niyamas represent the "do these" list of observances, and together Yamas and Niyamas are personal obligations to live well.


The five Yamas are moral directives, self-restraints to help guide the human behavior towards one's self and others.

• Ahimsa: Nonviolence

•  Satya: Truthfulness

• Asteya: Not stealing

• Brahmacharya: right use of energy

• Aparigraha: Not coveting what others have.


2. Niyama:

The five Niyamas are ethical principals of observance towards oneself. Saucha: Cleanliness. Santosa: Contentment with oneself.

• Tapas: Self-discipline.

• Svadhyaya: Self-study

• Isvara pranidhana: Surrender to a higher power.


3. Asana:

Commonly knows as the practice of yoga postures, as we practice them today. 4. Pranayama: A Sanskrit word translated as "extension of the prāṇa (breath or life force)" or "breath control." The word is composed of two Sanskrit words: prana meaning life force (noted particularly as the breath), and ayama (to restrain or control the prana, implying a set of breathing techniques where the breath is intentionally altered in order to produce specific results)


5. Pratyahara:

The withdrawal of the senses, meaning that the exterior world is not a distraction from the interior world within oneself.


6. Dharana:

Concentration, meaning the ability to focus on something uninterrupted by external or internal distractions. Dharana builds upon pratyahara. Once you can ignore external stimuli, you can begin to direct your concentration elsewhere.


7. Dhyana:

Meditation. Building upon dharana, your are able to expand your concentration beyond a single thing so that it becomes all encompassing.


8. Samadhi:

Bliss. After you have achieved dhyana, the transcendence of the self through meditation can begin. The self merges with the universe, which is sometimes translated as enlightenment.


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Cherie Hershman

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