Whether you spend your workday time in finance, healthcare, manufacturing, software development, or any other sector, chances are you need a good way to relax during your off-hours. For many people, yoga provides a way to refresh, renew, and stay fit.

But, even if you attend yoga classes regularly, your experience there is just the tip of the iceberg of the entire personal development system that is this discipline. In addition to the physical poses (known within the yoga system as asanas) you perform during classes or at home with video instruction, the yoga system includes ethical directives, breathwork, meditation, and a self-knowledge component.

You may not be interested in learning these other “limbs” of the yoga system and that’s fine! But, if you’d like to enhance your yoga practice, studying these elements is a great place to start.

Dos and Don’ts

Yoga isn’t a religion, but it does include some suggested directives about how to live. The yoga yamas are moral imperatives that you can think of as yoga “don’ts.”

Ahimsa is non-violence. Do not harm other living beings through action or speech.
Satya is non-falsehood. Do not lie.
Asteya is non-stealing. Do not take from others without their permission.
Brahmacharya is moderation. Use self-restraint to control potentially harmful desires.
Aparigraha is non-greed. Do not be grasp or be possessive.

Yoga also includes niyamas, which can be thought of as yoga “dos.”
Sauca is clarity of mind, speech, and body. Be focused.
Santosa is contentment and acceptance. Be optimistic.
Tapas is perseverance. Be persistent.
Svadhyaya is self-reflection. Be introspective.
Isvarapranidhana is contemplation of the divine. Be inspired.

Like many aspects of yoga, these principles seem simple. But those who dedicated a lifetime to them discover their complexities. For example, vegetarians might be avoiding the harm of other living beings by not eating meat. But, are they doing harm to themselves by not providing their bodies with needed nutrition?

If these principles appeal to you, you might want to start slow by exploring one for some weeks before moving on to the next. As with yoga asana instruction, you would likely benefit from joining a community of like-minded practitioners.

Proper Breathing

Pranayama is the practice of consciously regulating the breath. You can do it while performing asanas or on its own. The purpose is to refresh the body and control the mind, to prepare for daily activities or the meditation practices described below.

Dharma Yoga Nantucket explains, “Breathing [deeply] increases the capacity of the lungs, brings more oxygen into the body and stimulates the Vagus nerve…. When the Vagus [nerve] is stimulated it activates the parasympathetic nervous system to slow your heart rate, relieve stress, and heal your body.”


Pratyahara is the practice of withdrawing one’s attention from the physical world and dharana is the practice of holding one’s mind on a single subject, such as a mantra (repeated phrase), the breath, or an idea. The purpose of these practices is to prepare the mind for more advanced meditation practices (see next section).

Additionally, as described by Yogapedia, practicing dharana can help one cope with modern life: “Despite being one of our most basic human abilities, concentration is becoming something of a lost art. Indeed, it’s arguable that dharana is more important now than ever before.”

While simple enough, in theory, some may find these methods difficult to achieve. That’s why all yoga activity is conceptualized as a “practice” rather than an end goal to be arrived at.


Dhyana involves contemplating or reflecting on the subject of the dharana, which is the ability to hold one’s mind on a single subject, as mentioned above. For example, you may choose your breath as a subject and, in dharana, focus on it. Then, in dhyana, you would take the process a step further by thinking about your breath’s properties and meaning. Dhyana is meant to be an uninterrupted, non-judgmental train of thought.

Samadhi takes the meditative process another step further. It’s the state of being so absorbed in the chosen focus that the mind loses the sense of itself and instead merges with the focus subject. This state is the “empty mind” many think of as the ultimate goal of meditation.

In Summary

The 8 limbs of yoga — yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi — were initially presented by the ancient sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. While the exact date of this work is unknown, many believe it was written during the second century BCE. No matter when it was created, its influence is timeless, laying out a self-improvement path that anyone can follow.

Those who work with the 8 limbs achieve many benefits, including physical health and a reduction in the symptoms of chronic illness, a greater sense of life purpose, and a sense of inner calm. If you practice just one of the limbs, such as asana, you may experience many of these benefits as well, but if you’re looking for more pronounced effects, you might consider exploring the other 7 limbs.

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Author's Bio: 

Malcom is a tech expert at BairesDev specializing in the software outsourcing industry. He has access to the latest market news and has a keen eye for innovation and what's next for technology businesses.