In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows:
- Yama: Universal morality
- Niyama: Personal observances
- Asanas: Body postures
- Pranayama: Breathing exercises, and control of prana
- Pratyahara: Control of the senses
- Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana: Devotion, Meditation on the divine
- Samadhi: Union with the divine
The goal of yoga is to become enlightened, or reach a state of samadhi. The first 7 limbs are the path to reach the 8th.
Ahimsa - non violence
Kindness to all beings in thought, words and actions.
Satya - truthfulness
This means speaking the truth when it doesn't hurt others or being silent when it would.
Asteya - non stealing
Not taking anything that has not been freely given. This includes fostering a consciousness of others' time and attention.
Bramacharya - continence or sense control
Responsible behavior with respect to our moving toward the truth. Using our sexual energy to connect to our spiritual selves and not in any way that would harm another.
Aparigraha - non hoarding
Take only what is necessary and what we have earned. Letting go of our attachment to things and recognizing their impermanence.
Sauca - purity or cleanliness
Physical cleanliness through asana practice and pranhayama but also cleansing the mind of negative emotions like hatred, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride.
Santosa - contentment
Being at peace with what we have even while experiencing life's difficulties. Accepting our karma.
Tapas - disciplined use of our energy
Using the heat created by the body to cleanse it. Tapas burns up the desires that stand in the way of us creating union with the divine.
Svadhyaya - self study
Being self reflective and self aware to the point of welcoming and accepting our limitations. This lets us be centered and not react to negative self-destructive tendencies.
Isvarapranidhana - celebration of our higher selves
This literally means "to lay all your actions at the feet of God." Recognizing that the spiritual infuses everything and setting aside time each day to reflect on that.