How The 8 Limbs of Yoga Can Reduce Stress & Anxiety

The word Yoga means union. Union with the Self. Union with all Life. Union with the Divine. Yoga is a philosophy and science for living a good life. It is not just physical exercise to strengthen or tone the body, but to help us know ourselves, master our minds and use them most effectively.  

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali refers to the 8 limbs of yoga which can help provide support and guidance for your life by reducing suffering, stress and anxiety, while increasing our joy, inner peace and wellbeing to attain union and oneness with the Divine (Source of Creation).

Learn about each one and how to incorporate them into your life.

Yamas – Yoga Limb 1

Yamas = Wise Characteristics = Restraints

Attitudes and actions that help us deal with others and ourselves.

  • Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things. Compassion for self (i.e. self-love, being kind and gentle with self), for other humans, and for all life forms; avoidance of and non-participation in violence.
  • Satya – Commitment to Truthfulness. Speaking the truth without manipulation, exaggeration or falsehood.
  • Asteya – Non-stealing. Not taking what does not belong to us, including mindful use of resources, energy and time.
  • Brahmacharya – Sense control. Mindful use of sexual energy, food (i.e. not over-eating, craving), and other physical desires.
  • Aparigraha – Non-possessiveness, non-greed. Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth, material goods, physical items, resources, information, people, etc.

Niyamas – Yoga Limb 2

Niyamas = Personal Observances = Commitments

Attitudes and actions that help us deal with ourselves. 

  • Sauca – Purity. Inner and outer cleanliness (body, home, work space, etc).
  • Santosa – Contentment. Being happy with what we have, not unhappy about what we don’t have.
  • Tapas – Disciplined use of our energy. Avoiding overexertion; mindful approach to cravings, urges, etc.
  • Svadhyaya – Self study. Reflection and contemplation on who we are and how we are.
  • Isvarapranidhana – Celebration of the Spiritual. Trusting Divine will (i.e. there is a purpose for everything); having faith in and reverence for the higher power that permeates all life.

Asana – Yoga Limb 3

  • Physical posture. To calm and focus the mind and strengthen the body in preparation for meditation. To harmonize body-mind-breath.

Pranayama – Yoga Limb 4

  • Breath Control. To calm and focus the mind. To purify, energize, and harmonize the being.

Pratyahara – Yoga Limb 5

  • Withdrawal of the Senses. To calm and focus the mind inward. To cultivate balance and inner peace.

Dharana – Yoga Limb 6

  • Focused Concentration. To train the mind to focus and stay focused in preparation for deep meditation.

Dhyana – Yoga Limb 7 

  • Meditation (as a state of being). Meditative state of awareness that is effortless and based on a deep sense of devotion.

Samadhi – Yoga Limb 8 

  • Complete spiritual absorption and awareness. An experience of the state of oneness and union in spiritual consciousness.

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