Patañjali’s ancient text the Yoga Sūtra is our inspiration at OM Matters. This text was written around 250 B.C.E. in Sanskrit, and is known as the very foundation of yoga practice in the East and West. Although there are many translations and interpretations of “The Sūtra,” most scholars agree that yoga means “to yoke” and sutra is “a thread.” The Yoga Sūtra is a thread of beautiful verses that outline the key tenets of yoga.

While the Yoga Sūtra evolved from foundations of Hinduism, it is not a religious text, but simply offers suggestions on how we can live our lives in peace and happiness.

What inspires us about this philosophy is that it:

  • Leads us to the understanding that everything is interconnected, and encourages us to be mindful of all our actions, because our actions do matter.
  • Challenges us to experience each of the philosophies and practices ourselves, to trust our own experiences and how practicing yoga makes us feel versus what someone else may be teaching—even Patañjali.
  • Gives us the 8 Limbs of Yoga, a roadmap and tools to guide us in our journey to live a more soulful and meaningful life.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

The 8-limbed path gives us insight into our individual minds and the whole universe. The ultimate message: WE ARE ONE.


LIMB 1: Yamas

The first limb is yamas: ethical principles that clarify one’s relationship to the world and everything in it. The yamas emphasize our connection to others as an integral part of yoga—everything is interconnected. They break down to five practices, which define our personal integrity:

  • Ahimsā – not harming
  • Satya – honesty
  • Asteya – not stealing
  • Bramacharya – wise use of energy
  • Aparigrahā – non-possessiveness


LIMB 2: Niyamas

The second limb is niyamas: internal disciplines that teach us to respect ourselves—body, mind, and spirit. They are forms of self-discipline as well as reflective practices. The niyamas break down to five habits, which help us hone our Selves:

  • Saucha – purity, cleanliness
  • Santosha – contentment, gratitude
  • Tapas – discipline
  • Svādhyāya – self-reflection
  • Īsvara Pranidhāna – devotion


LIMB 3: Asana

The third limb is āsana: the physical practice of yoga. Of the 196 verses in the Yoga Sūtras, a mere 2 are dedicated to poses, but the practice of āsana is invaluable to cultivating a sublime meditative state. By linking breath to movement, āsana teaches us to turn within.


LIMB 4: Prānāyāma

The fourth limb is prānāyāma: the focus on the breath. Prānāyāma enables us to cultivate our very life force (prāna) through various techniques that teach us to relax and control our breath… creating divine conditions for health in the body and peace in the mind.



LIMB 5: Pratyāhāra

The fifth limb is pratyāhāra: the withdrawing of the senses and the letting go of all the many sensations we feel, hear, see, taste, and smell. By abandoning the countless distractions of day-to-day life, the mind is free to move into meditation—the ultimate goal of yoga.



LIMB 6: Dhāranā

The sixth limb is dhāranā: strict concentration on one object or task, a state in which there are no distractions. When staring into your lover’s eyes, the rest of the world is forgotten. Likewise, when you are enthralled with the object of your concentration, all else disappears.



LIMB 7: Dhyāna

The seventh limb is dhyāna: meditation, a state in which you experience the sacred through a deeply focused awareness. Through the practice of dhyāna, we begin to see reality for what it really is: impermanence. This is how we ultimately achieve bliss on a higher plane.



LIMB 8: Samādhi

The eighth limb is samādhi: the bringing together of the yoga practice, a state in which we truly know and feel that everything is interconnected. The intellect has stopped; there is only the experience of unutterable joy. A liberated soul can thus enjoy pure awareness and harmony.