Asana And Pranayama

The 8 Limbs Of Yoga Explained


After the external and internal guide

The 8 Limbs Of Yoga Explained



After the external and internal guidelines of Yama and Niyama comes the third limb of the eight-fold path – Asana, the physical practice of yoga. It is the most recognized of all the 8 limbs due to its popularity throughout the Western world. Traditionally, asana means ‘seat’, and was practiced to prepare the body to sit in meditation. Nowadays, Asana is performed for fitness purposes, hand-in-hand with high waisted leggings and yoga blocks.

The eight-fold path states the body is the temple of the spirit and to care for our bodies is an essential part of our spiritual growth. Through a physical practice we:


  • Develop discipline
  • Develop concentration and strength
  • Increase our balance and flexibility
  • Become able to explore and control our emotions


Whether you use asana to help you sit in meditation or get the perfect yoga figure, regular practice can have an array of benefits on the body and the mind. Modern yoga classes stretch, tone and strengthen our bodies – while calming our nervous systems, reducing stress and anxiety. It, in turn, improves our flight or fight response, making us more able to face our challenges and use them for growth. Traditionally all we need for this practice is our body and breath. Nowadays, you will probably benefit from the addition of a mat and Capri leggings.




Pranayama is translated as control of the breath and consists of techniques to gain mastery over the respiratory system. Prana translates as energy, and many yogis believe that by controlling the breath, you can control the flow of vital forces throughout the body. The eight-fold path sees the breath, mind, and emotions as intrinsically connected. There are many different kinds of breath work in yoga practice. Some are designed to energize you, while others are designed to help you relax. Pranayama can be performed as a stand-alone exercise, or integrated into a yoga class.

Contemporary yoga practices usually combine the use of asana and pranayama. For example, Vinyasa yoga often uses ujjayi breathing, commonly translated as ‘victorious breath’ – this kind of breathing has been used by yogis for thousands of years to enhance a physical practice. It has a characteristic oceanic sound, made by constricting the muscles in the back of the throat and breathing in and out of the nose. Breathing rhythmically in this way helps to synchronize the breath and movement, encouraging detoxification and the free flow of prana.


The combination of pranayama and asana is seen as the highest form of purification. It simultaneously relaxes and energizes your body and mind, while also removing impurities. Ultimately, the use of breath in a yoga class brings us into the present moment. The asana starts to act as a moving meditation. With a clear mind from the practices of Yama and Niyama, we use this meditation to motivate us to achieve our goals. What’s more, we are preparing our bodies for the next steps of the eight-limbed path. By training our bodies and our minds, we start to make ourselves comfortable mentally and physically to sit in meditation, which is seen by yogis as essential for our personal and spiritual development.