The First 2 Limbs of Yoga

The First 2 limbs of Yoga


I have chosen to write my blog about the first 2 limbs of yoga because these 2 concepts and each compartment within them really interest me and they are ideas that I have been trying to apply into my life in the last couple years. Together these 2 limbs form high moral character and allow for purity of the mind, body and soul.


Patanjali compiled up 8 compartments to describe the sadhana way to samadhi, through raja/ashtanga yoga. These 8 limbs are aimed at releasing the mind and guiding a person into full consciousness. 


  • The first limb is called Yama, which means universal moral/ethical commandments and includes the disappearance of all suppressions. Yama controls and individuals passions and emotions and keeps them in harmony with others around them. If these commandments are not obeyed then this brings violence, chaos, untruth, stealing, dissipation, and an envious need to possess something, extreme greed. These characteristics derive from the emotions of greed, attachment and desire, which according to patanjali can only bring ignorance and pain. 
    • The first principle of Yama is called ahimsa which means non-violence. According to this principle, violence arises out of fear, restlessness, ignorance or weakness and in order to stop this from occurring we need to reach freedom from fear (abhaya) and freedom from anger (akrodha), coming from a change in the perspective of life. Every creature is equal and has every right to live as they do. A yogi believes that every creation should be looked upon with love and knows that their life is connected to others, finding happiness in making other creatures happy. A wrong done by a yogi should be resolved with justice and a wrong done by another should be forgiven. Ahimsa pratishthayam tat vaira-tyagah means that a person who practices nonviolence will receive non violence in return and love. When a person who practices ahimsa surrenders all hostilities, other people will also surrender their hostilities when they come into contact with this person, and love arises from the dissipation of violence.
    • The second principle is called satya, which means truthfulness. This is based on the motion that if one lives and speaks in truth then they are fit to unify with the infinite and reach samadhi. According to patanjali, reality is based on love and truth and can be lived through these aspects. There are 4 sins of speech and they include falsehoods, abuse and obscenity, telling tales, and ridiculing what others have said. It is said that when an individual learns to control their tongue they have gained self-control and they will be heard with respect, they will be well remembered for their truth. Satya pratisthayam kriya phala ashrayatvam means that a person who acts and speaks from truth will live in truth, all of their actions will show truth, they need not have truth be a separate factor to who they are, it will come as part of them.
    • The third principle is called Asteya which means not stealing. Whilst a person who does not live by asteya may be driven to perform acts of theft in things that they desire, whether this is by taking the possessions of others without permission, using something for a different purpose than intended, or extending the time allowed to borrow the belonging, the yogi knows that they do not need anything more in life and reduces their physical needs to the minimum. If they gather things that they don’t really need, they see themselves as a thief. Freedom from craving allows a person to resist temptations. Asteya pratisthayam sarva ratna upasthanam means that a person living in the principle of asteya will find that treasures will appear to themselves. As they realise that possessions belonging to others are not more attractive than what they already have then this will attract treasures of a material and non-material nature to them.
    • The fourth principle is Brahmacharya which means celibacy and self-restraint. A brahmachari is one who practices brahmacharya and is able to see divinity is all. This does not mean that yoga is only for people who want to remain celibate, infact many yogis and sages of the old india were married with families. Brahmacharis do not see sex as a necessity to penetrate others. Brahmacharya pratisthayam virya labhah means that when a bramachari lives like Brahma (god), celibacy comes naturally, it is not created and practiced, as this leads to suppression. According to this principle, sex can exist in the forms of anger, violence, theft and jealousy and a brahmachari finds strength and courage.
    • The last principle of Yama is called aparigraha, which means non-possession, or to be free from hoarding. This includes non-possessiveness and absence of greed. This means that one person should not keep things that they do not need. A yogi trains his mind to not feel the loss or lack of anything, once this is achieved the things that the individual really needs will appear to them at the right time. Aparigraha sthairye janma kathanta sambodhah means that possessing has no meaning, the energy that appears when one is established with aparigraha will allow them to know the past and future, knowing hidden things. When one knows that nothing can be owned, their energy moves inward, and you are immersed in the present
  • The second limb is called Niyama and means self purification by discipline including freedom from all observances. Niyama also controls a person’s passions and emotions.
    • The first principle within Niyama is Saucha, which means that the purity of blood is essential for wellbeing. There are practices of asanas which cleanse our body physically and practices like pranayama which cleans our bodies internally. It is essential for our bodies to be cleansed of the mind for disturbing emotions such as hatred, passio, lust, greed, anger, delusion and pride, which are considered impure thoughts. This cleansing can be done in the practice of bhakti, meaning adoration and svadhyaya, the study of the self. These practices help to vanish mental pain, sorrow, despair and dejection and help to nourish radiance, love and joy. When one practices saucha they see their real selves and know that their body is a temple. Sauchat sva-anga jugupsa paraih asamsargah means that a saucha includes disillusion about the body. When one is very much concerned about the appearance of their body they search for another body to feel self gratification, which can be mistaken for love but it is not love. Love is not about the body, the soul feels comfortable when not in a crowd, but the body yearns for other bodies. When one realises that mental purity has power, the control of the senses, joyfulness and concentration occur. 
    • The next principle is Santoshha, which means contentment, finding joy in every moment. A mind that is not content cannot concentrate. When differences arise, conflict occurs and the mind cannot reach a point of one (ekagra), and peace is unachievable. In everyday life we get pleasure out of external objects created internally, never appreciating what we already have. Due to this we are never content, because we are always seeking for something else, which we cannot get. The mind does not have the capacity to be content, that would mean destruction of the mind, and the mind simply cannot allow that. By achieving a point of santosha, the mind does not have its function anymore and samadhi can occur. 
    • The third principal is tapa which means a burning effort to achieve a definite goal, including self-discipline, austerity and purification. Tapas is the effort to achieve union with the divine and burning out all desired which may stand in the way of achieving this goal. This aim makes life worthy, pure and divine. It can come in 3 parts including the body, speech and mind. Ahimsa and brahmacharya are tapas from the body. Satya is a tapa of speech, speaking the truth and retaining self control is a tapa of the mind. Fasting, yoga, deep breathing, natural eating are examples of austerities which transform impurities within the body. It is not torturing the body but purifying it. These austerities will create new energies and new possibilities for an individual performing in them.
    • The fourth principle is Swadhyaya, meaning self study. When one performs in swadhyaya he is essentially studying and educating themselves about themself. Through doing this the individual will realise that all of life and creation is made for bhakti (adoration) rather than bhoga (enjoyment), that everything that is, is divine. Divinity lies within oneself and within everything else, that the energy that lies within oneself is the same energy that lies within everything that exists within the universe. Self study includes how we view ourselves, how we think others view ourselves, our view of the world, how we relate to people, how we change around others, how we react to things, whether or not we show jealousy, possessiveness. All this study makes us become self aware and alert, allowing us to notice what goes on in our lives and eventually disattach from the identity and emotions towards those actions and thoughts. All the emotions and moods that appear will be witnessed, not letting anything be missed, and when they are witnessed, they disappear.
    • The last principle of Niyama is Ishwara-pranidha, which means that the worship of the lord and seeing him within us allows us to surrender the ego. One who knows that he lies within all of creation cannot have pride or ego. Total surrender of the go is required and must be surrendered without negativity inside, only purity is able to surrender. By knowing oneself, only then can surrender happen. When the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ disappears then the soul has reached full growth