Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for a system referred to as “Ashtanga Yoga” (“Eight-Limbed Yoga”). This eight-limbed concept is a core characteristic of practically every Raja yoga variation taught today. The Eight Limbs are:
1. Yama (The five “abstentions”): non-violence, non-lying, non-covetousness, non-sensuality, and non-possessiveness.
2. Niyama (The five “observances”): purity, contentment, austerity, study, and surrender to god.
3. Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation. Asanas are the physical poses of Yoga.
4. Pranayama (“Suspending Breath”): Prana, breath, “āyama”, to restrain or stop. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
5. Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
6. Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
7. Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
8. Samadhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.