The 8 Limbs of Yoga - At Home Practice

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

Raja yoga (“the royal path”) is the following of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga. The original context of yoga was spiritual development practices. These practices were to train the body and mind to self observe and become aware of the outside world. The purposes of yoga were to cultivate awareness, self-regulation and higher consciousness in the individual.

  1. Yama - The Outside World.

    • Ahimsa - Compassion.

    • Satya - Honesty.

    • Asteya - Being generous and not stealing.

    • Brahmacharya - Have a wise use of energy. The things you lust for may be distracting you from what will eventually give you happiness and peace. Use your energy on living your true values.

    • Aparigraha - Take what you need and let go.

  2. Niyama - Observing yourself and having personal discipline.

    • Sauca - Cleaning.

    • Samtosa - Being content.

    • Tapas - Passion, heat and energy. Burn away what you don’t need or evoke passion and energy to fire up your discipline.

    • Svadhyana - Self study. Bring yourself closer to your wants, desires, hopes and dreams. You have so many secrets within you, will you allow yourself time to discover them?

    • Isvara pranidhana - A spiritual celebration, let go.

  3. Asana - Posture.

    • Modification is a sign of wisdom

    • Link the breath to the movement

    • Standing poses have vitality

    • Balancing poses give lightness

    • Seated poses can be calming

    • Jumping poses promote agility

    • Back bends allow some liveliness

    • Core poses provide stabilty

    • Lying down loses are restful

    • Inverted poses give mental strength

    • Twisting poses are cleansing

  4. Pranayama - Breath control.

    • Breath of fire

    • Ujayi breathing

    • Lions breathing

    • Dirga breathing

    • Brahmari

  5. Pratyahara - Sense control.

    • Stop checking your phone and emails all the time and binge watching.

    • The action is the reward.

    • Pratyahara can also promote resilience, as sounds and sensations don’t bother you as much, you can still complete tasks.

    • How do you practice pratyahara?

      1. Let your senses rest in savasana (corpse pose). Allow yourself a blank slate.

      2. Or focus on just one sensory input. For example, you might focus on distant sounds.

  6. Dharana - Inner awareness and concentration.

    • Focus on what is in front of you

    • You might want to focus on your breath, bodily sensations, mantras, a candle flame or chakras.

  7. Dhyana - Meditation and contemplation.

    • The concept that there is a thinker and a witness.

    • You can practice gratitude as a dhyana.

  8. Samadhi - Enlightenment.

    • This is also known as the quest of the soul, the ecstatic union.

    • Everything is interconnected. At step 8, you repeat back to the start and practice the yamas.

    • The moment will pass.

    • Samadhi comes to you, from within you.

Sample Home Raja Yoga Practice

To practice the 8 limbs of yoga at home, this is what I do. I select a yoga playlist from spotify to create a yogic mood. Then I handwrite my program in an art diary. I select one activity for each limb to focus on. Sometimes I take 2 hours, sometimes I do it all in 10 minutes when I am short on time.

  1. Yama - the outside world.

    • Aparigraha - take what you need. Today I will not go clothes shopping.

  2. Niyama - self observation.

    • Sauca - clean. I am going to tidy up my house right now. Clean space, clean mind.

  3. Asana - posture.

    • Creative energy and adventure theme for my yoga asanas so lots of deep lunges, planks, wild thing and camel pose . Music - chef’s table soundtrack for some creative energy.

  4. Pranayama - breathing.

    • Do six rounds of alternate nostril breathing.

  5. Pratyahara - the senses.

    • Brahmari bumble bee meditation - close off the face with your hands and hum.

  6. Dharana - inner awareness and concentration.

    • Trataka meditation.

  7. Dhyana - meditation.

    • Mindfulness meditation. Closing eyes and focusing on breath. Sometimes I feel a moment of stillness.

  8. Samadhi

    • Samadhi comes to you, from within you.

Why do I like doing raja yoga at home?

The first two limbs are action-oriented so you clean out your stresses by doing something and feel like you are making progress. In the first two limbs, I can choose what is annoying me or on my mind and then clear it up. Sometimes, it is just sending an email that I have been putting off or starting the laundry. It’s good because when I think I don’t have time for yoga, I remember how the first 2 limbs are my opportunity to be more productive. And then as I keep working through the limbs, I get to do some stretches, relax, get better focus and find stillness from within. If you think meditation is going to bring up some ‘downer thoughts’, doing meditation after exercise is awesome, all the endorphins are buzzing and you can sit back and enjoy. That’s why the order of the 8 limbs of yoga is great for home practice.

I hope you also enjoy a raja yoga session at home too!