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Spirituality & Yogi History + Theory

Turn in the link to your homework here: Teacher Training - Week 1 Reflections (

Teacher Training - Week 1 Reflections (


Introduce the 8 limbed path.

Timeline of Yoga in connection with the path.

8 limbed path in connection with themes & sequencing

The Chakra Systems & Energy systems


Literally introduction to Patanjali's Yoga Sutra

The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali is a collection of Sanskrit sutras on the theory and practice of yoga – 195 sutras and 196 sutras. The Yoga Sutras was compiled in the early centuries CE, by the sage Patanjali in India who synthesized and organized knowledge about yoga from much older traditions.

It is the oldest "how to manual" of yoga. It presents a systematic, comprehensive teaching. Sutra means thread. It is a terse aphorism serving as a device for memorizing sacred teachings.

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The Eight Limbed Path:

2.28-2.55, 3.1-3.3

1. Yama
2. Niyama
3. Asana
4. Pranayama
5. Pratyahara
6. Dharana
7. Dhyana
8. Samadhi

Yama (Restraint): This first limb, Yama, refers to vows, disciplines or practices that are primarily concerned with the world around us, and our interaction with it. While the practice of yoga can indeed increase physical strength and flexibility and aid in calming the mind, what’s the point if we’re still rigid, weak and stressed-out in day-to-day life?

The yamas constitute the "great vow" and are to be practiced under all circumstances.
  • Ahimsa (Non-violence)

  • Satya (Truth)

  • Asteya (Non-Stealing)

  • Brahmacarya (Right use of energy)

  • Aparigraha (Non-grasping, Non-Hoarding, Non-Greed)

NIYAMA – Positive duties or observances

The second limb, Niyama, usually refers to duties directed towards ourselves, but can also be considered with our actions towards the outside world. The prefix ‘ni’ is a Sanskrit verb which means ‘inward’ or ‘within’. There are five Niyamas:

  • saucha (cleanliness),

  • santosha (contentment),

  • tapas (discipline or burning desire or conversely, burning of desire),

  • svadhyaya (self-study or self-reflection, and study of spiritual texts), and

  • isvarapranidaha (surrender to a higher power).

Niyamas are traditionally practised by those who wish to travel further along the Yogic path and are intended to build character. Interestingly, the Niyamas closely relate to the Koshas, our ‘sheaths’ or ‘layers’ leading from the physical body to the essence within. As you’ll notice, when we work with the Niyamas – from saucha to isvararpranidhana – we are guided from the grossest aspects of ourselves to the truth deep within.


Pranamaya can be seen with photography! Back in 1970, Guy Coggins built a camera that could capture people’s auras, otherwise known as the electromagnetic field surrounding the body.

veritable fiellds
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subtle energy field
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The practice of each yama and niyama brings benefits to the yogi.

  • Conflict disappears in the presence of the yogin established in ahimsa (2.35)

  • The yogin who is reliably truthful is in full controll of his actions and the karmic fruits they yield. (2.36)

  • The yogin who never steals finds all kinds of treasures appearing before him (2.37)

  • The yogin grounded in chastity gains vitality (2.38)

  • From perfection of non-grasping comes the knowledge of former births. (2.39)

  • From purity comes a sense of non-attachment to the body but also a keen interest in protecting the body from contamination by others (2.40)

  • Through purity one also attains happiness, one-pointedness, clarity of the sense organs and the capacity for self-understanding. (2.41)

  • Self study yields contact with one's chosen deity. (2.44)

  • Devotion to the Lord leads to attainment of samadhi. (2.45)

Asana - The pose
Sthira sukham asanam - Asana should be steady and comfortable (2.46)
Pranayama - The vital life force - Breath
Patanjali describes the essential techniques of pranayama: inhalation, exhalation, and "fixing" the breath (retention and suspension), lengthening or shortening any one of these elements, counting, and placing the breath on certain areas of the body (2.50).

He recognizes a movement of breath that transcends inhalation and exhalation (2.51).

Pranayama removes the "obstacles that inhibit clear perception" (2.52).

Pranayama makes one fit for the practice of concentration (2.53).
Pratyahara – Sense withdrawal or Sensory withdrawal
Disunion of the senses form their objects (2.54).
Pratyahara makes the senses obedient/mastered (2.55).

Pratya means to ‘withdraw’, ‘draw in’ or ‘draw back’, and the second part ahara refers to anything we ‘take in’ by ourselves, such as the various sights, sounds andsmells our senses take in continuously. When sitting for a formal meditation practice, this is likely to be the first thing we do when we think we’re meditating; we focus on ‘drawing in’. The practice of drawing inward may include focussing on the way we’re breathing, so this limb would relate directly to the practice of pranayama too.

The phrase ‘sense withdrawal’ could conjure up images of the ability to actually switch our senses ‘off’ through concentration, which is why this aspect of practice is often misunderstood.

Instead of actually losing the ability to hear and smell, to see and feel, the practice of pratyahara changes our state of mind so that we become so absorbed in what it is we’re focussing on, that the things outside of ourselves no longer bother us and we’re able to meditate without becoming easily distracted. Experienced practitioners may be able to translate pratyahara into everyday life – being so concentrated and present to the moment at hand, that things like sensations and sounds don’t easily distract the mind.

DHARANA – Focused Concentration
Dharana is binding the awareness to one single object (3.1).

Dharana means ‘focused concentration’. Dha means ‘holding or maintaining’, and Ana means ‘other’ or ‘something else’. Closely linked to the previous two limbs; dharana and pratyahara are essential parts of the same aspect. In order to focus on something, the senses must withdraw so that all attention is put on that point of concentration, and in order to draw our senses in, we must focus and concentrate intently. Tratak (candle gazing), visualisation, and focusing on the breath are all practices of dharana, and it’s this stage many of us get to when we think we’re ‘meditating’.


DHYANA – Meditative Absorption
Meditation is extended concentration on a single object in during which other thoughts are not entertained (3.2).

The seventh limb is ‘meditative absorption’ – when we become completely absorbed in the focus of our meditation, and this is when we’re really meditating. All the things we may learn in a class, online or from a teacher are merely techniques offered to each person in order to help them settle, focus and concentrate, the actual practice of meditation is definitely not something we can actively ‘do’, rather it describes the spontaneous action of something that happens as a result of everything else. Essentially; if you are really meditating, you won’t have the thought ‘oh, I’m meditating!’…. (sound familiar?)

SAMADHI – Bliss or Enlightenment

In Samadhi, there is no perceived distinction between the meditator, object of meditation, and the act of meditating. One's consciousness seems to be the object of meditation (3.3).

Many of us know the word samadhi as meaning ‘bliss’ or ‘enlightenment’, and this is the final step of the journey of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. After we’ve re-organised our relationships with the outside world and our own inner world, we come to the finale of bliss.

When we look at the word samadhi though, we find out that ‘enlightenment’ or ‘realisation’ does not refer to floating away on a cloud in a state of happiness and ecstasy…. Sorry.

Breaking the word in half, we see that this final stage is made up of two words; ‘sama’ meaning ‘same’ or ‘equal’, and ‘dhi’ meaning ‘to see’. There’s a reason it’s called realisation – and it’s because reaching Samadhi is not about escapism, floating away or being abundantly joyful; it’s about realising the very life that lies in front of us.

The ability to ‘see equally’ and without disturbance from the mind, without our experience being conditioned by likes, dislikes or habits, without a need to judge or become attached to any particular aspect; that is bliss.

Just as the theologian Meister Eckhart used the word isticheit meaning ‘is-ness’ as referring to the pure knowledge of seeing and realising just ‘what is’, this stage is not about attaching to happiness or a sensation of ‘bliss’, but instead it’s about seeing life and reality for exactly what it is, without our thoughts, emotions, likes, dislikes, pleasure and pain fluctuating and governing it. Not necessarily a state of feeling or being, or a fixed way of thinking; just pure ‘I – am-ness’.

There’s just one catch though – Samadhi isn’t a permanent state…. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras importantly tell us that unless we are completely ready, without ‘impressions’ such as attachment, aversion, desires and habits, and with a completely pure mind, we will not be able to maintain the state of Samadhi for long:

Once the mind is pure and we truly do experience a state of Samadhi we can keep hold of, we attain moksha, also known as mukti, meaning a permanent state of being liberated, released and free.

Yogic Philosophy and Spirituality
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Resources 8 Limbs:

8 Limbs of Yoga - Yoga Journal

8 Limbs of Yoga: The Path of Enlightenment in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (

The 8 Limbs of Yoga explained - Ekhart Yoga

Homework & Reflections:

-Read from "The Heart of Yoga" - Pg. xv, xvi. Pg. 5-7 / 9-14 (Themes) Pg. 17-23 (Asana, Sutras, Pranayama) pg.26-27 (Themes) Pg. 45-52 (Creating Classes) Pg. 97-105 ( 8 limbed Path - 4 of the limbs in short)

-Choose one limb and practice this limb till next time.



Samadhi - the culmination of yoga practice Literally means "putting together."


Warrior 1

Child's Pose


Flicka Reflection:

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Saturday Yama:

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Saturday Practice:

Sunday Morning Practice:

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