The art and science of Yoga are at least over 5000 years old. But it wasn’t until 200 BC that Patanjali, who is considered to be the father of Modern Yoga, compiled 196 aphorisms into what became a yogic Bible and is called The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
In that text he described the eight aspects of a Yogic Lifestyle and called it the Eight Limbs of Yoga or Ashtanga (the name has nothing to do with Ashtanga Vinyasa…)
The limbs are practical guides to a one’s personal development to achieve the harmony of the mind, the body and the spirit which leads to Samadhi or enlightenment. In short it is about creating balance and equanimity, living in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole.
The eight-limbed path forms the structural framework for yoga practice. These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one's health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.
1. Yama : Universal morality, ethical standards 2. Niyama : Personal observances 3. Asanas : Body postures 4. Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana 5. Pratyahara : Control of the senses 6. Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness 7. Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine 8. Samadhi : Union with the Divine
Yamas and niyamas are the suggestions given on how we should deal with people around us and our attitude toward ourselves. The attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is yama ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."), how we relate to ourselves inwardly is niyama. Both are mostly concerned with how we use our energy in relationship to others and to ourselves.
Yamas: 1.Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things, non-violence 2. Satya – Commitment to Truthfulness 3. Asteya - Non-stealing 4. Brahmacharya - Sense control 5. Aparigraha - Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth, non-possessivness
Niyamas: 1. Sauca - Purity and cleanliness 2. Santosa - Contentment and modesty 3.Tapas – Discipline and austerity, heat, purifying fire 4. Svadhyaya – Self study 5.Isvarapranidhana – Surrender to the Higher Power