8 limbs of yoga: How to develop authenticity and awareness
8 limbs

The 8 limbs of yoga: Exploring the Yamas and Niyamas

When we discuss embracing Yoga as a lifestyle we are considering that there is a lot more to yoga that what happens on a Yoga mat. To live a life in Yoga we would need to start with the philosophy behind the system and science. To live a life in yoga we would need to discover the 8 limbs of Yoga – the Heart of Yoga. This eightfold path set out for us by the ancient Indian philosopher Patanjali in the yoga sutras is considered to be the fundamental text of Yoga.

My name is Premaloka and I would love to share with you how embracing yoga as a lifestyle will help you discover your authentic self and how this will enable you, with the awareness to identify the brightness and light  within yourself, your fellow human beings and the universe around you.

The 8 limbs

1 – Yama – Moral Principles

2 – Niyama – Observances

3 – Asana – Postures

4 – Pranayama – Breathing

5 – Pratyahara – Sense withdrawal

6 – Dhahran – Concentration

7 – Dhyana – Meditation

8 – Samadhi – Liberation

Understanding the yamas and niyamas of the 8 limbs

You may have heard of some or most of these 8 limbs of Yoga. But you may not know much about the first two. At this stage it is worth noting that Asana is the third limb of Yoga, and in fact in the past when Yoga was passed down from teacher to student, Asana was not taught to the aspirant until they had mastered the first two limbs.

This was for a very good reason. Most of us are aware that we have a vibration, an aura or energy, we are aware that yoga asana changes this energy and vibration and it makes us more open to the energy and vibration around us. What we achieve by adhering to the Yamas and Niyamas is the knowledge of how to channel and direct this energy in the best, most authentic and positive way. How to use it not abuse it.

It is unfortunate that in the age we are now living in the first two aspects are seldom passed down from teacher to student and instead so much energy and focus is expended on Asana alone.

The Yamas

So let’s start with the Yamas, which are restraints or moral principals.

Ahimsa – Non Harming

Satya – Truthfulness

Asteya – Non stealing

Brahmacarya – Restraint (chastity)

Aparigraha – Non Avarice

To most of us these would seem pretty simple and ways we would generally choose to act. But they are layered and there is a certain unity to them which I feel enables them to cohese well, so let’s explore them a little further.


Ahimsa is non harming. Of course this means the obvious – to not physically harm people, animals or the environment. But its overall meaning is kindness to all – In every way that we act, verbally, mentally (our thoughts) physically and spiritually. Treat everything and everyone with loving kindness.


Is all about truthfulness. It is about keeping your frequency high and clean by being straight with others and yourself. Keep honesty front and centre and first and foremost –  don’t lie to yourself.


Asteya tells us to not take anything that does not belong to us. But it is broader of course than simply not stealing the material. We can steal people’s time, their energy and even their words and work. What we are asked to realise is that nothing comes for free – there is always an energetic exchange. 


Brahmacarya s about restraint. It is connected to your sexual energy, but not only this. In modern day yoga it can be about reserving your sexual energy for when love is attached, not diluting it by expending it without love’s vibration – It is also about showing restraint in your life and not always seeking more…and more.


Lastly we have Aparigraha, which is about greed.We are asked not to take more than we need and to not always be wanting more than we have. To explore and live with contentment. We can identify with this on all levels- from our portion size to the make of our car, to the size of our house. We explore need more than want.

The Niyamas

Now we move on to the Niyamas – which are known as observances: ways in which to be in relation to your Self. 

Sauca – Cleanliness and Purity

Santosa – Contentment

Tapas – Work/Effort

Svadhyaya – Know yourself/ Self study

Isvara PranIdhana – Devotion


First we have Sauca, which is about keeping it clean – when energy flows right it is clean. In this Niyama we focus on not only keeping our house and surroundings clean but keeping our minds, body and our thoughts clean. It is as simple as showering and coming to our mats clean each morning or removing your shoes before coming indoors and consuming clean high energy food. Even if your eyes are closed, if your heart is open you will be able to feel the energy of a clean space. We practise thinking positively and with kindness about life and others and therefore not poisoning the mind, keeping our thought vibration high. This of course then ties in with keeping our words clean and kind so that we don’t lower the vibration of others.


Santosa is all about contentment and with contentment comes calm. It connects to balance and being able to be in a space where you can say and believe , everything is ok, exactly as it is. Not constantly yearning for what you don’t have. To be grateful for everything that you have and a knowledge that all is as it should be.


Tapas is about work and effort, it is about commitment and perseverance. We realise that life is not always easy and that to live by these restraints and observances will require work. As does most things in life. This Niyama focuses on our ability to do a job well – If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. We are reminded that in life commitment and perseverance are often required for a beneficial outcome.


In the fourth Niyama – Svadhyaya, we are asked to move a little deeper into ourselves and the spiritual and discover our own divinity. We are asked to take the time to get to know ourselves. Explore with honesty and total awareness all aspects of ourselves. Change or release what doesn’t serve us and develop and deepen the positive. We explore balance and duality.

Isvara Pranidhana

Lastly we come to Isvara Pranidhana – this Niyama is Devotion to the Divine or Simply it is about realising there is a bigger picture, a higher power. It is calling you to understand that it’s not all about you or even us. We are asked to embrace inclusivity and realise the universality of our existence.

Although many thousands of words could be written about these first two limbs of Yoga, this is a brief description of how following these restraints and observances, these simple yet beautiful ways of being, enrich your life. They without doubt develop your awareness and ensure your life and you are Authentic. People may ask, Why live this way? I would answer, we all have an energy or Aura and this Yogic lifestyle will assist in your Aura being bright and positive. You will vibrate at an optimal frequency and your positive energy will increase your ability to touch your spirit and create positive change in the world around you. Yoga encourages you to be the very best you, you can be. As a wise Guru once said to me, “Yoga is the shortcut to our own realisation.”


For more about the author, Premaloka, see



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