Which are The Five Limbs of Bahiranga Yoga?

Yoga is a comprehensive system that originated in ancient India and involves physical exercise and spiritual and mental practices.

Within the broader framework of yoga, Bahiranga Yoga, or the “external” yoga, consists of five limbs that focus on the physical and ethical aspects of our being.

These limbs, outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, provide a structured approach to achieving holistic well-being.

Let’s explore the five limbs of Bahiranga Yoga and how they contribute to physical, mental, and spiritual development.

Five limbs of bahiranga yoga include yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayamas, and pratyahara.

Yama: The Foundation of Ethical Living

The first limb of Bahiranga Yoga is Yama, which can be seen as the foundation of ethical living. Yama consists of five principles that guide practitioners’ interactions with the external world.

  • Ahimsa (Non-violence): The principle of non-violence encourages individuals to cultivate compassion and avoid causing harm to others, both in action and thought.
  • Satya (Truthfulness): Truthfulness is emphasized in speech, thoughts, and actions. Practising honesty leads to a sense of integrity and authenticity.
  • Asteya (Non-stealing): Asteya involves refraining from taking what does not rightfully belong to us, promoting a sense of contentment and gratitude for what we have.
  • Brahmacharya (Moderation): Often interpreted as celibacy, Brahmacharya also encourages moderation in all aspects of life, promoting balance and self-control.
  • Aparigraha (Non-attachment): Non-attachment involves letting go of possessiveness and greed, fostering a mindset of simplicity and contentment.

By integrating these ethical principles into daily life, practitioners of Yama lay the groundwork for a harmonious and socially responsible existence.

Niyama: Cultivating Personal Observances

The second limb, Niyama, focuses on personal observance and self-discipline. Niyama consists of five principles that guide individuals in their internal practices.

  • Saucha (Purity): Saucha involves both external and internal purification, encouraging cleanliness in the physical environment and clarity in thoughts.
  • Santosha (Contentment): Contentment arises from accepting the present moment and being grateful for what one has, fostering inner peace.
  • Tapas (Austerity): Tapas encourages discipline and effort in pursuing personal and spiritual goals, fostering self-control and determination.
  • Svadhyaya (Self-study): Self-study involves introspection and self-reflection, leading to a deeper understanding of one’s true nature and the path of personal growth.
  • Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender): Surrendering to a higher power or universal consciousness allows practitioners to let go of their ego and cultivate humility.

Niyama guides individuals seeking to enhance their internal well-being, promoting a positive and disciplined approach to life.

Asana: The Physical Postures

The third limb of Bahiranga Yoga is Asana, which refers to the practice of physical postures. While many associate yoga solely with asanas, these postures serve a deeper purpose beyond physical exercise.

Asanas are designed to develop physical strength, flexibility, and balance. Through the practice of various poses, practitioners not only enhance their physical well-being but also prepare the body for meditation and spiritual practices.

The focus on mindful movement and breath awareness during asana practice brings about a union of body and mind, creating a meditative flow that promotes mental clarity and concentration.

Pranayama: Harnessing the Breath

Pranayama, the fourth limb, involves the regulation and control of breath. The breath, often called prana, is considered the life force energy. Pranayama techniques aim to balance and channel this energy within the body.

Individuals can enhance their respiratory functions, increase lung capacity, and promote overall well-being by practising specific breathing exercises.

Beyond the physical benefits, Pranayama plays a crucial role in calming the mind and preparing it for meditation.

The conscious control of breath helps redirect the life force energy, leading to a greater sense of inner peace and balance.

Pratyahara: Withdrawing the Senses

The fifth limb, Pratyahara, involves withdrawing the senses from external stimuli. Pratyahara teaches individuals to turn their attention inward in a world of constant distractions.

By detaching from external influences, practitioners create a conducive environment for meditation and self-reflection.

Pratyahara does not imply complete sensory deprivation but a mindful withdrawal from unnecessary stimuli.

This practice allows individuals to cultivate a heightened sense of awareness and focus, paving the way for deeper stages of meditation.


In conclusion, the five limbs of Bahiranga Yoga provide a comprehensive roadmap for individuals seeking holistic well-being.

Yama and Niyama guide practitioners in ethical living and personal observances, creating a solid foundation for physical and spiritual growth.

Asana develops physical strength and prepares the body for meditation. At the same time, Pranayama harnesses the breath to promote balance and inner peace.

Finally, Pratyahara teaches the art of withdrawing the senses, creating an environment conducive to self-discovery and meditation.

By integrating these limbs into their daily lives, individuals can embark on a transformative journey beyond the physical postures commonly associated with yoga.

Bahiranga Yoga becomes a holistic approach to self-realization, fostering a harmonious balance between the body, mind, and spirit.

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