Tag: 8 limbs of yoga

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Pranayama: breathing

Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breathPranayama means breath control or breath expansion.  It is the 4th of the 8 Limbs of Yoga.  Prana means life force or vital energy.  Yama means control or code of conduct.  Actually, pranayama is a combination of prana and ayama.  Ayama means expansion so pranayama is a way to expand your vital energy and vibrate on a higher frequency.

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Vital energy flows through your body’s 108 nadis or energy channels and through the 7 energy centers or chakras.  Through pranayama breathing techniques, you can direct life force into your body and choose how to use it.  Some pranayama techniques are meant to soothe the body, while others are aimed at energizing.  Pranayama can also help clear blockages in your energy channels.

Breath is composed for 4 parts:

  • pooraka (inhalation)
  • rechaka (exhalation)
  • antar kumbhaka (internal breath retention)
  • bahir kumbhaka (external breath retention)

Different pranayama practices involve different aspects of the breath.  All pranayama techniques require you to focus on the breath.  In this way, pranayama acts as a meditation, becoming the only necessary thought for that moment.  Below are a few pranayama techniques to try.

Position for Pranayama

Most of these breathing techniques are typically practiced in a comfortable, tall (upright) seated position, eg. on a chair, in easy pose (sukhasana- below), or in lotus position (padmasana).  Allow your preoccupations and worries to take a break so you can focus on your breath.  If you can’t do this from the start, don’t worry it will probably come later as you concentrate on inhaling and exhaling.

Chin mudra Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath
Chin mudra
Jnana mudra Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breath
Jnana mudra

Mudras can also be used during pranayama to help direct the flow of energy.  Chin and jnana are classic mudras that are often used in conjunction with pranayama.

To begin,take a couple of deep breaths, emptying all of your breath out on each exhale, allowing your body to start with fresh new air and focus for your pranayama.

Natural breath

Natural breath can be the simplest pranayama, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Concentrating on your breath without controlling it is sometimes tough.  Allow yourself to simply observe your breath, feeling it come in and out of your nose.  Notice how it’s cool going into your body and warm going out.  Let go of everything else and just watch prana come and go.  Allow it to pump through your body and mind.

3-part breath

With this technique, you will start to harness and control your breath.  Empty all of the air out of your body, then inhale directly into your diaphragm, filling the lowest part of your belly first.  As more breath enters your body, send it into your lungs, expanding through the sides of your rib cage.  Finally, let the last bits of the inhale fill your chest and raise through your clavicles (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blades).  Your body is absolutely full of breath and prana.

On your exhale, you will empty the breath with equal care and concentration.  Start by allowing the shoulders and the chest to drop back down toward the ribs as the breath underneath them empties.  Then let the lungs and the rib cage contract as the breath leaves them.  Finally, empty the breath from deep down in your diaphragm, the pit of your belly.  You should be totally empty now, full of potential for your next breath pouring in.

This breathing technique is great for developing awareness of your body and breath.  It also focuses the mind.


Complete Guide to Pranayama, meaning breath control (one of the 8 limbs of yoga): 8 different types of pranayama: how to do each one and benefits #pranayama #breathSamavrtti is a practice of creating the same length inhale and exhale.  Start by trying to breath in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts.  Try to stabilize and equalize the length of your inhales and exhales.  Once you are confident with this technique, try retaining the breath  for a count at the top of the inhale before continuing.  The third stage is retaining the breath at the bottom of the exhale instead.  As you become more comfortable with this technique, you can try lengthening your count.  When practicing sahita or retention, make the retention 1/3 as long as the count of the inhale and exhale (eg. inhale for 6, hold for 2, exhale for 6)

Samavrtti focuses the mind and calms the body.


Ujjayi is often practiced during yoga.  It is infamous for its soft oceanic sound, like waves rolling in and out.  Others describe it as a hiss.  Start with natural breath, breathing normally from your nose.  Then slowly shift your awareness  to your throat.  Imagine you are breathing from the back of your throat.  Pull the breath in and push it out, as if you are breathing from a small hole in your throat. Breath is directed to the back of the throat.  Try to contract the glottis (vocal cords).  There will be a slight sound almost like snoring.  It doesn’t need to be loud enough for others to hear, contrary to what many instructors may say.

Ujjayi tranquilizes and heats the body, soothing the nervous system and mind.

Nadi Shodhana

Guide to Nadi Shodhana: How to and BenefitsNadi shodhana is my favorite pranayama technique.  In Nadi Shodhana, you breathes through one nostril and then the other.  Using the right hand, you can block the right nostril with the thumb and the left nostril with the ring finger (middle and pointer are folded down).  Inhale on the right with the left nostril closed, then change the hand positioning to open the left nostril and close the right nostril to exhale.  Inhale left and change over to exhale on the right.  Inhale right, then change your hand positioning and exhale left.

Nadi Shodhana is a great practice for reducing stress, removing toxins, and balancing energies.

To learn more and see pictures of the techniques, click the picture on the right.


In Bhastrika, your diaphragm moves in and out like bellows stoking a fire. Take a deep breath in, drawing air into the diaphragm and expanding the belly.

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Then breathe out forcefully through the nose, pushing the air out.  With the same force, pull the air in again.  Repeat this process ten times then take a break with normal breath.  Then take another 4 rounds of bhastrika breath.  This practice can be done with increasing speed as you become more familiar with it.  Also, once you are comfortable, try bhastrika through one nostril at a time.

Bhastrika removes toxins and strengthens the nervous system.  It increases the metabolism and clears out the airways.

Kapala Bhati

Kapala Bhati is similar to bhastrika, except the inhale is casual rather than forced.  Inhale naturally then exhale by contracting the abdominal muscles, pushing the air out.  The inhale will be a natural reaction to the forceful expulsion of breath.  Repeat 10 times then take a break with normal breathing before continuing on to another round.

Kapala Bhati energizes the mind and clears the airways.


Kaliasana: meaning, methodology, and breath-workKali breathing is great for bringing heat and energy into the body.  There are a few variations on this breath.  Click the photo to learn more about the goddess Kali and building energy like she does.


Much of this information can be found in the Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha book if you’re interested in further reading.

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Asana. Learn about the origins of yoga poses and how asana can be incorporated with other aspects to fully experience "yoga" history, theory and philosophy. #yogasana #asana

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Asana: history, theory and philosophy

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Asana.  Learn about the origins of yoga poses and how asana can be incorporated with other aspects to fully experience "yoga" history, theory and philosophy.  #yogasana #asana

The third and most well-known limb of the 8 limbs of yoga is asana.  This means all of those yoga poses—the physical practice of making all of those shapes with your body.  In the West, asana often is yoga.  We sometimes forget about the other 7 branches.

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When yoga first started, about 5000 years ago, it was all based around meditation, with the goal of gaining self-awareness.  As yoga progressed, different postures for meditation were created, at first only 16 poses.  Yoga asanas were created as a means of building discipline and concentration for meditation.  The body’s sole purpose was to house the spirit.  As time went on, the number of postures grew.  In early 1800’s there were just over 100 poses or asanas and now there are thousands.  In modern yoga, more and more poses are being created as people experiment with their bodies and transitions into new shapes.

Asanas are often grouped based on the orientation of the yogi or the goal of the pose, like standing postures, balancing postures, folds, back bends, seated poses, inversions, hips openers, twists, supine poses, etc.  Instructors often try to incorporate all of the types of postures or parts of the body in a class.  Other classes aim at a “peak pose,” opening the muscles needed for a final, specific posture.  Other classes are based on a theme and all of the poses relate to exploring the theme conceptually.  There are lots of different ways to sequence a yoga class, practice or flow.

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Asana.  Learn about the origins of yoga poses and how asana can be incorporated with other aspects to fully experience "yoga" history, theory and philosophy.  #yogasana #asanaIdeally, yoga poses (asana) should be combined with the other 7 limbs of yoga to create a fuller experience; body, mind and soul should unite in yoga.  The word “yoga” itself is translated as union or yoke.  The limbs of yoga must be connected to reach yoga’s full potential.


Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of Yoga

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Niyamas: how to incorporate them into your life

Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of YogaThe first of the 8 limbs of yoga, the Yamas, have to do with the way we behave in the world.  The second limb are the Niyamas, which deal with the way that we that we treat ourselves; how we behave in relationship to personal actions and outlooks.  There are 5 Niyamas.

  1. Saucha is translated as purification or cleanliness. This concept goes beyond keeping your body clean inside and out, it also means keeping a clean mind and a clean environment for living your life.  Try to take in pure foods, substances, thoughts, feelings, and surroundings.  Some people interpret this niyama as one of the main goals of yoga as a whole.
  2. Santosha means contentment. This means being satisfied in the present moment; appreciating what you have at any time.  This also relates to not wishing for more or wishing for what someone else has.  Materialism doesn’t bring happiness.  Santosha means accepting and appreciating what you have, which leads to happiness and joy.  Remind yourself that you are enough.
  3. Tapas is said to mean austerity or self-discipline. This niyama refers to motivation to better yourself.  It is a focused energy and a desire to commit to self-practice.  Tapas creates an internal fire or heat that helps purify and solidify commitment.  This determination helps you reach your goals within yoga and in your daily life.
  4. Svadhyaya is translated as self-study. This means getting to know yourself- your needs, abilities, desires, faults, and nature.  It means wanting to know the deepest, most true form of yourself.  Self-study also gives you room to improve and become the self that you most want to be.  It also helps you recognize your divine nature or the divine within yourself.
  5. Ishvara is said to mean surrender or devotion to God. This doesn’t have to be interpreted as a particular god.  Ishvara means accepting that everything is related and connected.  It means trusting in the universe; surrendering to the greater good or higher power.  Devoting your practice or actions to this higher power allows you to let go of your attachment to your self.  It allows you to recognize something bigger which opens the mind to the concept of the interconnectedness of everything.

With the yamas and niyamas combined, yoga guides our ideal behaviors internally and externally.  Embodying the yamas and niyamas creates a strong foundation within each yogi for moving further into the 8 limbs of yoga.
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Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of Yoga

Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Yamas: how to implement them in your life

Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of YogaIn modern Western Yoga, we tend to focus on the physical side of yoga, mostly practicing the yoga poses, or asanas.  But the asanas are actually fairly new to the practice of yoga AND they’re only one of the eight (ashta) limbs (anga).  In other words, there’s a lot more to think about when we talk about yoga, like the yamas.

The first limb of the 8 limbs of yoga is the yamas.  Yamas deal with how we yogis behave in the world; how we treat those around us.  There are 5 yamas to guide behavior.

  1. Ahimsa is translated as non-violence.  This goes beyond physical violence like being vegetarian or not hurting others’ bodies.  This principle extends to emotional pain.  It asks yogis not to harm others if it can be avoided.  Be careful with your words and others’ feelings.  On a positive note: treat others with compassion.
  2. Satya refers to truthfulness.  This means not lying of course, but also not intentionally omitting information.  Tell the whole truth.  Also be truthful in your actions; let your actions reflect your true intentions and feelings.
  3. Asteya means non-stealing.  This means not taking physical things, but also extends to the intangible, and possibly more valuable things, like time and energy.  Be sure others want to give before you take.  This yama also tells us to appreciate what we have inside of ourselves—be content with what we are, rather than trying to take from someone else.
  4. Brahmacharya is often translated as abstinence.  Not everyone can become a renunciate and give up all of their worldly goods.  This yama tells us to exercise restraint, rather than indulging too much.  Use what you need but not more- in terms of physical goods, energy, time, etc: don’t take too much.  On the other hand, don’t sell yourself short, giving yourself too little.
  5. Aparigraha is said to mean “non-grasping.”  This can mean not wanting.  This refers to new things and things you already have– this yama motivates de-cluttering.  Aparigraha is also physical and emotional.  Don’t reach for a connection, vibe, or love that isn’t there.  This yama asks us not to be greedy and reminds us of impermanence.

IDEA: The yamas are all great ideals to strive for.  You could try to focus on each one for a week at a time to try to incorporate it into your life.  Try to see how it could relate to you and affect your modern life.

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Katia Yoga blog: asana, meditation, yoga theory, yoga philosophy, looking within, and so much more. Join me!

Welcome to Katia Yoga: Mindfulness. Yoga. Wellness. Health. Blog. Shop.

Hi there!  I’m Katia and I’m a yogi.  learning some new yoga techniquesI started practicing asana over 10 years ago.  I loved moving my body through the different shapes and felt better after yoga classes, but it wasn’t quite whole.  More recently, I’ve been learning about the other 7 limbs of yoga and about other yoga-related concepts.  It’s amazing how the other aspects make yoga a more complete lifestyle and make me more whole as a yogi and person.

I wanted to learn even more and share my fun so I joined a Yoga Teacher Training course in July 2016.  From there, I taught yoga in Nicaragua and Myanmar, but there was too much to squeeze into each hour-long class.  So I created this yoga blog to share the things I learn about yoga and being a yogi along the way.  I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

I blog about the deeper side of yoga and how to make yoga a real part of everyday life for yogis who want to deepen their practice and expand their knowledge through body, mind and soul.  These yogis want to keep growing, learning and becoming more and more their own wonderful selves.