Life With Eight Limbs

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By Jessie Blackledge • December 4th, 2012 • 7660 Views

Life With Eight Limbs

As outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, yoga is an eight-limbed philosophy, the sum of which constitutes what Patanjali outlines as Ashtanga Yoga. These eight limbs are guidelines towards what we would contemporarily deem a yogic lifestyle. The ultimate aim and final limb in the process is samadhi, more commonly known as enlightenment.

Patanjali writes that samadhi is only achievable by committing to the seven other essential limbs, working through them as a process. Finally, samadhi is the completion, almost like a reward.

Now, I don’t know about you but going through life with eight limbs sounds like a whole lot of hassle to me. Yes, it would have its benefits, but really, how hard would it be to buy clothes?

The eight limbs in yoga is a sought-after lifestyle. Each limb must be an addition to the previous one as you build your way towards samadhi. We don’t have the time or word-count to discuss each limb in all its glory but to whet your appetite slightly, let’s have a glance at just a couple.

The first limb is the yamas. Yes yamas, as in plural, or more than one. Five in fact. These outline the five abstentions and include non-violence, truth, non-stealing, moderation and non-possessiveness. The second limb is the niyamas, or the five observances, which are cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study and surrender.

When I was first learning about Patanjali and the eight limbs, I was reluctant to take it all in. It was interesting, yes. But in the back of my mind there was a voice saying, “following orders regarding how to live your life from a book? Something stinks of religion!” I would not classify myself as an atheist at all, but having been brought up in no particular faith, when someone mentions religion, I tend to run (or at least, walk) in the opposite direction. However, the slightly more dominant voice at the front of my head spoke a little louder this time. I’m not quite sure what it was saying, but there was something different about these limbs, particularly the niyamas. Then I learnt what separated Patanjali’s guidelines from say, the ten commandments. It is the same concept which dominates yoga and deems it a spiritual scientific practice, as opposed to a religious strategy; these procedures are about making commitments to yourself, and to building a lifestyle to which you were only honouring yourself....


Jessie Blackledge

Location:  Birmingham, GB

Jessie Blackledge is a yoga teacher based in Birmingham, UK.  She completed her teacher training with Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre in Cork, Ireland, working closely with Yogacharya Lalit Kumar and his team.  Jessie is trained in traditional Ashtanga...