The Eight Limbs of Yoga - Types of Yoga - and A Brief History

eight limbs of yoga Aug 27, 2018

The subject of Yoga and the Eight Limbs of Yoga is vast and there are many books, both new and ancient, on the subject. The sage, Patanjali, codified the Eight Limbs of Yoga in the Yoga Sutras.

There is much confusion regarding the different "Types" and "Styles" of yoga. The following may help clarify some confusion. Without writing volumes, here is a simple, brief breakdown of some of the different types of yoga (not to be confused with the many different styles, i.e., Iyengar, Bikram, Kundalini, etc.):

There are four "Types" of yoga, which are as follows:

1. Karma Yoga - the path of selfless service;

2. Bhakti Yoga - the path of devotion to the Divine through prayer, chanting, rituals;

3. Jnana Yoga - the path of intellect, wisdom and study of sacred texts;

4. Raja Yoga - also known as the "royal path," is the path to personal enlightenment, and is a balance of the first three types.


There are the Eight "Limbs" of Yoga, codified in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, around 200 BC, which are:

1. Yamas - universal guidelines for ethical standards and morals: Ahimsa - non-violence, Satya - truthfulness, Asteya - no stealing, Brahmacharya - moderation, Aparigraha - non-attachment;

2. Niyamas - personal observances and disciplines: Saucha - cleanliness, Santosha - contentment, Tapas - austerities/purifying practices, Svadhyaya - study of spiritual scriptures, Isvara Pranidhana - awareness of and surrender to the divine will of God;

3. Asana - physical postures;

4. Pranayama - breathing techniques for controlling and directing the energy, or life force, in the body;

5. Pratyahara - withdrawal of the senses in preparation for meditation;

6. Dharana - concentration and focus on an object to facilitate meditation;

7. Dhyana - meditation;

8. Samadhi - the ultimate goal of yoga, transcendence of self and merging with the Divine through meditation.


Of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, the third one, Asana, is the limb of body postures. Hatha Yoga (which means sun and moon, and also means the word forceful), includes the performance of the postures and is the path toward wellness through physical, mental and spiritual means.

There are many different "Styles" of yoga:

Hatha yoga encompasses many different physical styles, some are gentle and some are extremely challenging. A few different styles, as stated above, are Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Bikram and Sivananda, to name just a few. There are hundreds of different schools which all teach one or many different styles of yoga, with more and more added continually.

The important thing to understand is that no matter which "type," style or school of yoga you practice under, whether a challenging form of yoga or basic beginner level, all are leading to the same goal, the unity of body, mind, breath, spirit and the achievement of Enlightenment!

Experiment with different styles of yoga to find one that feels right for you. You will know if it's right for you once you begin a regular practice.

Click on the link below for more on yoga's history.

History of Yoga

Contact me with your questions about the Eight Limbs of Yoga, or let me know about your experiences through my Contact Page.



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