Patanjali was an ancient sage who described the paths we need to take for optimal human living, which is the goal of yoga.
The first limb is the yamas or external disciplines and ethical practices, which deal with our relationships with other people and to society as a whole. They include :
- brahmacharya which is moderation or restraint or contentment,
- ahimsa which is non-violence or loving kindness,
- asteya which is non-stealing or generosity,
- satya which is truthfulness or kind speech,
- aparigraha which is non-greed or non-accumulation
The second limb is the niyamas. or internal disciplines, which are personal observances that form the foundation for looking after our body and mind. They include:
- shaucha or purity - health and cleanliness of the body and mind,
- svadhyaya or self study through yoga, meditation, reading, studying and reflection
- tapas or austerity, which is willingly enduring unpleasant things in our lives
- santosha which is contentment arising from connection with our infinite nature
- ishvara pranidhana or trust in something greater than ourselves.
The third limb is asana, or the practice of physical postures.
The fourth limb is pranayama, or breath regulation.
The fifth limb is pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses, as in a meditation or relaxation practice.
The sixth limb is concentration, developed in some asanas or in meditation.
The seventh limb is meditative absorption.
The eighth limb is oneness.
Yoga is not something we do for a fixed time on our mats and then forget about for the rest of the day. It is shifting our awareness to constantly observe our inner reactions and behaviour.