Yoga Challenge: Ashtanga (The 8 Limbs of Yoga) – Intro to Yoga Philosophy & Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Welcome to our 30 Day Challenge & Yoga Philosophy Intro Weekend

Welcome, New Yogis! If you are in a 30 Day Challenge, you may want to check the challenge welcome page and shortcut page, and get free printable calendars and checklists! We will begin with some background info before we get into the Daily Yogi practices for our group. For this intro day, we will introduce Ashtanga or The 8 Limbs of Yoga, from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Daily Yogi’s Daily Positive Practices are inspired by the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Our Daily practices will generally cycle through these 8 Limbs and their branches.

What is Yoga?

We will start at the beginning. So.. what is Yoga? Is it religion? Or is it exercise? Is it a philosophy?

Linguistically, Yoga is Sanskrit for “to yoke” or “to join” and is often translated to English as “union”. 

Technically, Yoga is a set of practices, that for many results in a calmer and happier life. Yoga practice involves exercise (Asanas) and much more. Traditional Yogi Texts include the Vedas, The Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Sutras. The 8 Limbs of Yoga where Daily Yogi draws inspiration are from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Is Yoga a Religion?

Religion according to Merriam Webster is “the belief in a god or in a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods.” Therefore, by this definition, Yoga is not a religion. In fact, Yoga allows for practitioners of any, all, and no religious background.

Although many Yogic practices trace their origins to ancient Hinduism and the Vedic Texts, Yoga is not Hinduism. Hinduism covers a wide range of beliefs and practices. Yoga philosophy parallels the beliefs of at least five distinct Eastern religions including but not limited to modern Hinduism. Two of these other Eastern religions are more likely to practice Yoga than modern Hindus or Indians. Yogis can practice any religion or no religion.

The various Yogic Texts also promote many of the same moral codes and practices (ie the golden rule, charity, etc) found in western monotheistic religions. However, some of the practices some individuals incorporate into their Yoga routines, such as chanting and meditation, can have a “religious” feel to others. So, if any of our daily practices or yoga practices do not appeal to you, remember you are free to take what works and leave what does not.

Ashtanga Yoga

There are 8 Limbs of Yoga according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Ashtanga (ahsh-TAHN-guh) is a Sanskrit word meaning “eight-limbed.”

Daily Yogi - brown tree trunk and green leaves showing upper and lower Limbs of Yoga - Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi
Limbs of Yoga – Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi

The first four limbs are varied personal practices, exercises, and habits. The last four limbs are mostly meditation-based and build upon each other. So, I created the tree graphic above to share how I envision the Limbs of Yoga. The first four limbs are roots of the tree, that feed and support the sequential growth of the upper four limbs. We will focus primarily on the lower four limbs with our daily practices. However, we will also cover some meditation techniques of the upper four limbs.

The true purpose of Daily Yogi is to water and nourish the lower roots of the tree, to support your own personal “innermost journey” in the upper limbs.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

1 Yamas (YAH-muhs) – Interpersonal Ethics (5: Ahimsa / Non-Harming, Satya / Truthfulness, Asteya / Non-Stealing, Brahmacharya / Moderation, and Aparigraha / Non-Attachment)
2 Niyamas (KNEE-yah-muhs) – Personal Observances (5: Saucha / Purity, Santosha / Contentment, Tapas / Discipline, Svadhyaya / Self-Study, and Ishvara-Pranidhana / Surrender)
3 Asanas (AH-sa-nuhs) – Poses (Hundreds)
4 Pranayama (PRAH-na-YAH-muh) – Breath (Dozens)
5 Pratyahara (PRAHT-yah-HA-ruh) – Withdrawal of the Senses
6 Dharana (dah-RA-nuh) – Intense Focus
7 Dhyana (dee-YAH-nuh) – Full Meditation
8 Samadhi (sah-MA-dee) – Enlightenment

Ashtanga Vinyasa

There is a specific type of Asana that many refer to as “Ashtanga.” I usually call this style of Yoga “Ashtanga Vinyasa.” Ashtanga Vinyasa is a series of specific, challenging, and dynamic sets of Asana sequences and other Yoga practices. Also, I am just an Ashtanga Yoga student, not an authorized Ashtanga Teacher yet… which requires a trip to the only approved Ashtanga School in India #goals. We will discuss this more later.

A quick note about Sanskrit: as I mentioned before, I am a huge nerd, and particularly love languages. In addition to my native English, I have studied Spanish, French, Latin, Classical Greek, and Japanese. Classical Sanskrit is the language of ancient India, the Vedas, and Yoga. It is one of the original/foundational languages. So, I have been fascinated by Sanskrit roots that trickle down into literally all of the languages I have studied.

Sanskrit and Linguistics

Also, for those of you who are interested, Classical Sanskrit is supposed to be the true name or vibration for each word. So, I will use both English and Sanskrit / Yoga terms. I will do my best to provide simplified (if not 100% accurate) pronunciations for those of you new to Sanskrit / Yoga.

PS Language learning is my daily Tapas habit – please follow me on Duolingo @TarrynTyler 😀

Daily Yogi App

I also created an app as a Tapas tool, with daily gentle reminders and easy access to our daily positive Yogi practices. The Daily Yogi App is AVAILABLE NOW on both Apple and Android devices. Our app enables pop-up notifications and quick access to our daily positive practices. Additionally, the app also allows for easy research on each of the 8 Limbs of Yoga and has a free mobile version of the Bhagavad Gita.

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