2.28 – Through the practice of the eight limbs of yoga, all impurities are dissolved. The fire of wisdom then lights the way to clear intuitive knowledge.

योगाङ्गानुष्ठानादशुद्धिक्षये ज्ञानदीप्तिराविवेकख्यातेः ॥२८॥

yoga anga anusthanad ashuddhi kshaye jnana diptih a viveka khyateh

  • yoga – to yoke, to bring together; union; samadhi
  • anga – limbs; body; division; parts
  • anusthanad – practice; undertaking; performance
  • ashuddhi – impurity
  • kshaye – termination; dissolution; end
  • jnana – knowledge; awareness
  • diptih – light; radiance; illumination
  • a – up to; until
  • viveka-khyateh – discerning knowledge; discriminative awareness; clear intuitive knowledge

2.29 – The eight limbs of yoga practice are: avoiding destructive behaviors (yamas), engaging in life-enhancing behaviors (niyamas), a steady and comfortable meditation posture (asana), balancing and freeing the vital energies (pranayama), internalization of awareness (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and unity-consciousness (samadhi).

यम नियमासन प्राणायाम प्रत्याहार धारणा ध्यान समाधयोऽष्टावङ्गानि ॥२९॥

yama niyama asana pranayama pratyahara dharana dhyana samadhi ashtau angani

  • yama – restraints; reins; self-control; avoiding destructive behaviors
  • niyama – observances; vows; precepts; engaging in life-enhancing behaviors
  • asana – seat; posture
  • pranayama – extension of breath; breathing exercises; the non-restraint or free flowing (ayama) of life-energy (prana)
  • pratyahara – internalization of awareness; withdrawal of the senses; drawing back; turning within
  • dharana – concentration; steadiness
  • dhyana – meditation; the undisturbed flow of concentration
  • samadhi – unity consciousness; union of subject and object; bringing together; deep absorption
  • ashtau – eight
  • angani – limbs; divisions; parts

Commentary on Sutras 2.28 and 2.29:

In chapter one, Patanjali described a twofold process of yoga—detachment (vairagya) and training (abhyasa). Later, at the beginning of this second chapter, he expands this into the threefold practice of kriya yoga—self-discipline (tapas), Self-reflection (svadhyaya), and surrender to Awareness (Ishvara pranidhana). Now, he further unpacks this to reveal the eight-limbed path to unity (ashtanga yoga).

The various practices within the eight limbs can be considered kriyas. They are all intentional actions designed to dissolve all impurities in one’s field of consciousness. Once those impurities have been cleansed, the fire of wisdom rises.

That rising energy is the uncoiling of potential spiritual power, also personified as the awakening of the sleeping goddess, Kundalini. As Kundalini rises through the central channel (sushumna), she enlivens each chakra and unfurls herself fully within the thousand-petaled lotus at the crown. There she becomes united with her beloved Shiva (the personification of Pure Awareness).

The union of Kundalini-Shakti with Shiva brings about the liberation of consciousness. Although Patanjali doesn’t use this tantric terminology, he expresses this final union in the last sutra of the final chapter when he writes:

“Absolute freedom is realized when the purpose of the primal forces of nature is fulfilled, and they are returned to their source. Then, the Self abides in its own essence, the Power of Awareness.” Sutra 4.34.

The Sanskrit term for “the Power of Awareness” is “Chiti-Shakti”—Chiti (Awareness) and Shakti (Power or Energy).

Each of the eight limbs of yoga helps to yoke the energies of consciousness toward the direction of Pure Awareness. This process eventually culminates in the abidance of the Self in its own essence.