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The limbs of Yoga in yogic traditions

What are the Limbs of Yoga?


In our previous article about the basics of yoga, we could read that various schools of thought exist in yoga.


These philosophies have in common their goal of union, which is always the ultimate objective of a yoga practice. They seek to give a series of steps to reach that goal. These steps are the so-called limbs of yoga.


The number of limbs thus depends on the philosophy which one is following. Some philosophies include six limbs, whereas other traditions have seven or eight.


The limbs of yoga are associated with the level of the yogi practicing. The practitioner following a tradition with fewer limbs has to be more experienced. He already has mastered the basic steps of yoga and can directly focus on the complex steps.


On the opposite, it is better for a beginner in yoga to start with traditions built around eight limbs since these include an entire progression.



How did the limbs emerge to create different yogic traditions?


As we said before, many sages and seers described yoga. They tried to define the different concepts around it, creating various traditions with various limbs of yoga. One of the sages explaining these limbs is Swatamrama in his Hathayogapradipika, published around the 15th century. This text describes four limbs or steps to reach unity of body, mind, and soul.


After the publication by Swatamrama, Sage Maharshi Patanjali developed the Yog Darshan, including eight yoga limbs. His text gained a lot of importance among the yogic culture. Some seven or eight limbs philosophies were created with inspiration from the work of Patanjali.


Gherandh Muni brought the seven limbs tradition in his Gherandhasamhita. Vasisth Muni in his Vasisthasamhita, Rishi Goraksanatha in the Goraksasatakam, and the Buddha in the Baudh Darshan wrote about eight limbs philosophies inspired by Patanjali.


Those traditions are the main text in yogic culture, but other philosophies and texts exist.


What comes under the Hatha Yoga tradition?


Hatha Yoga is considered the origin of yogic culture by many sages and seers. The time of its beginning is not known, but it is said that it comes directly from Lord Shiva. All other traditions take roots in its philosophy.


Many traditions come under the Hatha Yoga philosophy. All the texts that we've talked about before, except the one of Patanjali, are part of Hatha Yoga.


The basic philosophy of Hatha Yoga teaches the practitioner to gain control over his body (via strength and flexibility) and his mind (via concentration and serenity) to reach the "union" of the mind, body, and soul.


The texts containing fewer limbs are traditions for experienced yogis who have already done some way in their yoga practice. The ones with a higher number of limbs are more accessible to start with as beginners.



Patanjali's text is part of which tradition?


As mentioned before, sage Maharshi Patanjali developed a philosophy composed of eight limbs. The yogic tradition which follows the exact principles of Patanjali is the Ashtanga Yoga, from the Sanskrit words "Ast" meaning "eight" and "Anga" or "limbs." For this reason, Ashtanga Yoga is also called the "Yoga of Patanjali."


Unlike Hatha Yoga, which changed a lot over time through the cooperation of many sages, Ashtanga Yoga was created entirely by Patanjali.


Patanjali's philosophy is considered a great tradition to start in learning yoga since it contains eight limbs and starts from the basics.




To resume.


The limbs of yoga are steps needed to attain the union of the body, mind, and soul. There can be up to eight limbs, and they are used according to the practitioner's philosophy. The more limbs there are in the tradition, the more accessible the practice is to beginners.


Hatha Yoga is the primary form of yoga and contains many traditions with a varying number of limbs. Ashtanga Yoga is directly coming from Patanjali's eight limbs philosophy, and his work inspires some Hatha Yoga texts.




At Japam Yog, we teach Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga. The classes are all done under the active supervision of our teacher. They include multiple feedbacks to ensure a safe practice.

We also provide Yoga Therapy and Medical Therapeutic Yoga for people with specific health conditions. To learn more about the benefits of yoga for health, you can read our last blog article.

Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or want to participate in one of our classes.


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