In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). 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.
The first limb, the Yamas, deals with one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behaviour and how we conduct ourselves in life. Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Yamas – Outer observances and disciplines.
“Being firmly grounded in nonviolence creates an atmosphere in which others can let go of their hostility.” Sutra 2:35
“For those who have no inclination to steal, the truly precious is at hand.” Sutra 2:37
“Freedom from wanting unlocks the real purpose of existence.” Sutra 2:39
Niyama – Personal observances and disciplines.
Niyama, the second limb, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Developing your own personal meditation practices, or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of niyamas in practice.
The five niyamas are:
“Purification also brings about clarity, happiness, concentration, mastery of the senses, and capacity for self-awareness.” Sutra 2:41