Ashtanga Yoga … how strong are YOUR 8 limbs?

By: Yogacharya

Sage Patanjali

Sage Patanjali

Oh no, you say … not another article on the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga!

Oh Yes …   but before you click away and do another Google search for free yoga videos, let me ask you this one question:

Are you sure that you REALLY want to practice yoga?

If that sounds like a strange question, then perhaps you might not know as much about yoga as you think?  (not yet, anyhow) …

I’m sure that you’ve probably read more than a few articles that list the various 8 limbs of yoga.  Yes, you know about the first 2 limbs, the yamas and niyamas, those morals and ethics that the yogis seemed so obsessed with.

Whatever … you’re a good person.  NEXT …

Asanas … that’s the ticket.  Sure, you may find some of these weird stretches challenging, but Madonna has been doing yoga for a long time, and she looks pretty darn good for 51!

And you know about pranayama too … it’s just that the yoga breathing stuff can get so flippin’ boring after awhile.

But from then onwards is where things get a bit hazy for most modern yogis.  You’ve probably grappled here and there with the first 4 limbs of yoga, but the last 4 ? … Hmmm, even for most yoga teachers today, those limbs often seem to just be flailing around in the wind somewhere.

But did you know that it is in these higher 4 stages that yoga actually begins?  It’s true! That’s what all the classic texts on yoga emphasise, and that’s what any Guru who’s worth their weight in chapattis will tell you too.

So what are those first 4 limbs for then?  Preparation for the higher stages, where yoga really gets going.  Don’t get me wrong, this preparation is nothing to be hastened through … but at that level, the level where 99% of people who do yoga today are, we’re really just starting to crack open that yoga door.

But why, you say, hasn’t your yoga teacher mentioned that?  Well, it could have slipped their mind … but I doubt it.  More likely they haven’t quite gotten there yet themselves.  Now don’t be too hard on them, after all, these 4 higher stages of Ashtanga Yoga are no walk in the park!

But they are where the real fruits of yoga lie, and until and unless you set your sites upon them, then you are stuck in the perpetual land of preparation.  The only question I have left for you then is, “what are you preparing for?”

More on the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga here …


Yogacharya is Director of International Yogalayam and Editor of “The Yoga News

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3 Comments so far

  1. Cameron on August 25th, 2009

    A great commentary! You’re bang on with your assessment of the modern yoga scene. As yoga teachers (and I am one) we do have the responsibility to “be” what we are teaching. Yoga is a living science, not just theoretical concepts, and a lot of teachers need to do a much better job developing their own knowledge and practice so that they can guide others through that same process.

    Your website is excellent, by the way!

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yogalayam, Paula Daunt. Paula Daunt said: Ashtanga Yoga. How Strong Are Your 8 Limbs? [...]

  3. Kember on February 3rd, 2010

    it is easy to learn Yoga although it seems difficult at first try. I practice Yoga mainly for relaxation and for improving my blood circulation.