The Eight Limbs of Yoga: An Introduction

Many people have asked, what exactly is Yoga?

Sitting in funny postures?

Breathing in rhythmic patterns?

Chanting strange Mantras?

Clearing one’s mind?

The answer is:

Yoga means To Yoke.


To tie one thing to another.

[Specifically, cattle to a plow, if you want to get into the whole Sanskrit bit]

To do Yoga is to be Yoked, to be bound (willingly, one hopes) to something that


It can be breathing.

It can be walking.

It can be standing.

It can be bathing.

It can be eating.

It can be singing.

It can be sh*tting.

And trust the Tantras,

It can be f*cking.

As long as it leads you to that place…

What place?

Now, that’s a good question…

And getting there, that’s the tricky bit…


In recent decades, public interest in mindfulness meditation has soared. Paralleling, and perhaps feeding, the growing popular acceptance has been rising scientific attention. The number of randomized controlled trials — the gold standard for clinical study — involving mindfulness has jumped from one in the period from 1995‒1997 to 11 from 2004‒2006, to a whopping 216 from 2013‒2015, according to a recent article summarizing scientific findings on the subject.

Studies have shown benefits against an array of conditions both physical and mental, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But some of those findings have been called into question because studies had small sample sizes or problematic experimental designs. Still, there are a handful of key areas — including depression, chronic pain, and anxiety — in which well-designed, well-run studies have shown benefits for patients engaging in a mindfulness meditation program, with effects similar to other existing treatments.

So, who’s making these extraordinary claims, outside of the Harvard Gazette?

Well, we can definitely look to Patanjali, and his master treatise on Yoga, the Yoga Sutras.


So, what can we say about the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali?

It has 196 sayings.

It was written down between – and pay attention here –

500 B.C.E. and… 400 C.E.

That’s almost a millennium of uncertainty as to its actual composition.

And while it had a brief period of popularity in the medieval era, it didn’t really come back around until the early 20th century… so what does it all come down to?


Here is the answer, as forwarded by Patanjali:

The Eight Limbs of Yoga:

  1. yama (abstinences),
  2. niyama (observances),
  3. asana (postures),
  4. pranayama (breathing),
  5. pratyahara (withdrawal),
  6. dharana (concentration),
  7. dhyana (meditation)
  8. samadhi (absorption).

We’ll spend some time in the coming weeks exploring each of these concepts.

Until then, keep your limbs moving!

Patanjali Statue In Patanjali Yog Peeth, Haridwar. CCA, wikipedia.

One thought on “The Eight Limbs of Yoga: An Introduction

  1. Such a tantalisingly brief introduction. I look forward to reading your further exploration of the topic. Thank you Mythcrafts Team. Stay safe and well

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