Yoga is a system of practices, a lifestyle, that allow for a state of union or integration. This system of practices contains 8 limbs:
Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi.
The eight limbs of yoga, one of the uses of the term Ashtanga, may also be called the eightfold path.
Please note that I use Sanskrit (the original language of yoga) because translations can be lacking in the full meaning and essence of a word. I interweave both the Sanskrit term and English to try to both convey a more accurate meaning and maintain the thread of this long standing and respected tradition.
YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows… how we relate with ourselves and others
NIYAMA – Positive internal duties or observances
ASANA – stationary and moving postures, positions, forms
PRANAYAMA – Breathing techniques, energetic practices accessed through breath
PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal
DHARANA – Focused concentration
DHYANA – Meditative absorption
SAMADHI – Bliss or enlightenment…union…integration
The eight limbs are not something to be checked of a list or to be climbed like a later. They may be practiced or learned about independently but it is in their interweaving are they possible fully experienced and understood. As your experience and understanding develop in one area it exponentially adds to another.