What is Yoga?

Lets explore the Yoga Sutras and find out really what is yoga and how we can begin to really live it.

What are the Yoga Sutras?

The Yoga Sutras are a collection of yogic wisdom, previously passed orally from teacher to student.  Sometime around the 3rd Century BC an ancient yogi sage, Patanjali, collected this yogic wisdom and wrote it down in his Yoga Sutras.

Raja Yoga

Patanjali divides the path of Raja Yoga (the king of Yogas) into eight limbs, known as Ashtanga Yoga.  (Not the same as what you may know as Ashtanga, or Power Yoga!)  The eight limbs show us how we can achieve enlightenment through yoga.

So, what is Yoga?

Silly question right!? Actually the answer may not be as clear as you think. Yoga means Union – the union of our internal Spirit with the Universal Intelligence.  The path of Raja Yoga shows us how we can attain this Union, however it is only when we practice all eight limbs that we are really ‘doing’ Yoga.

What are the Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga?

  • Yama
  • Niyama
  • Asana
  • Pranayama
  • Pratyahara
  • Dharana
  • Dhyana
  • Samadhi

Say what?!

Ok, lets look at these one by one.


Yama are 5 moral codes of conduct which it is advised you live by, if you wish to begin your path toward enlightenment.  These 5 codes include

  1. Ahimsa
  2. Satya
  3. Asteya
  4. Brachmacarya
  5. Aparigrahah

Lets look at Ahimsa, or non-violence /  non-harming first.  This one sounds pretty obvious, however, the non-violence doesn’t just refer to our actions.  We should also avoid violent, or harmful thoughts and words, both to ourselves and to others.  How often do we direct things at ourself that we wouldn’t dream of saying to others!  We chastise ourselves for being making mistakes, for being human. We repeat negative self-talk over and over.

Check out this video by Dove, it’s powerful and pretty distressing to watch. Yet we do this to ourselves all day long! Well, it’s time to stop. Through Yoga we can retrain our brain to think loving, positive affirmations that serve us, and the rest of humanity more productively.

The difficulty with doing this is that we’ve probably been saying the same old things to ourselves, since forever! We’re possibly not even aware of how we talk to ourselves.  The first step to changing our patterns of thinking, is to notice what we say. With Yoga we give ourselves the space and freedom in our minds to begin to notice.  With Yoga we feel good when we practice, so that we can start to notice when we make ourselves feel not-so-good though our old habitual thoughts.   Once we notice what we say, we can start to change it.  We can challenge our negative self-talk by replacing it with more accurate, useful comments.

When we can act, think and speak non-violently, to ourselves and to others then we have cracked the first part of the first limb of Yoga and doesn’t it feel good!

Love and Light, Rebecca x

PS – more posts on what is yoga coming soon.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, you might also like to read more about how people get into yoga.