Bahiranga – The External Aspect of the 8-Fold Path of Yoga


Ashtanga Yoga or the 8-fold Path of Yoga is a collection of sutras compiled by Patanjali for the novice practitioner. It explains the yogic philosophy on how to live life and walk the path of self-realisation. The 8-folds are divided into two, where the first four limbs represent the Bahiranga or external aspect and the next four represent Antaranga or internal aspect of Yoga.

In this blog, we will dive a little deeper into the first four limbs that make up the Bahiranga or External aspect of Yoga.

Bahiranga is a Sanskrit term which means ‘external’ or ‘outside’. In the 8-fold path of yoga, it is associated with the first 4 limbs, that are- Yama, Niyama, Asana & Pranayama. Pratyahara is the fifth limb that acts as a bridge connecting the external to the internal.

We will start with Yama which teaches social restraint to help us excel. There are five Yamas given by Patanjali, these are considered the personal virtues of the individual. Now, we will understand what each of these Yamas stands for.

    1. Ahimsa (Non-violence)- Violence of any kind should not be accommodated, be it physical or emotional. We should refrain from using violence as a means to achieve a goal as that would be an incompetent way of achieving the said goal.

    2. Satya (Truthfulness)- In this modern society that we live in there are times when we don’t think twice before lying. From saying a task will be done in 5 minutes while the actual time required is greater, to hiding facts that can affect a relationship. At the end of the day, the truth will prevail, hence, we should consciously walk in the path of the truth.

    3. Asteya (Non-stealing)- When we say steal the first thing that comes to mind is materialistic items. But Asteya is much more than just refraining from taking physical objects that don’t belong to you. It is about not taking credit for ideas or thoughts that were not originally yours, for taking someone else’s time, and so on. In short, Asteya means to not take anything that is not given freely.

    4. Brahmacharya (Energy Moderation)- Brahmacharya is mostly interpreted as celibacy which again is just one point of this amazing concept. With brahmacharya what Patanjali was trying to say is, to moderate the energy you spend on or towards anything. Be it your favourite dish or series, to a habit. Too much of anything is harmful, similarly, when too much energy is focused on one or two things, we get attached to it, making us miserable when we don’t have it.

    5. Aparigraha (Non-hoarding)- Today, when everyone is competing on who has more of everything, this Yama becomes the most difficult to accept. Yoga teaches us that we should be content with what we have, with how much we have of it and if we can’t control it, we should let go of it. Hoarding doesn’t only encompass the cars, shoes or jewellery you find difficulty departing with. It also takes into account the grudge, hatred and revengeful attitude we hoard against the selected few in our lives. The ultimate form of freedom is not from having the most but from being content with just enough.

Moving on we will look at the Niyamas or the observance to transcend the external.

    1. Saucha (Cleanliness)- One of the famous quotes we read as kids was, “Cleanliness is Next to Godliness”, but as we grew up, we started justifying why we weren’t able to keep things tidy or in its place. It is proven in multiple platforms that when we declutter and tidy our surroundings, we are able to work more efficiently than when we are engulfed in an unclean atmosphere.

    2. Santosha (Contentment)- We usually misinterpret the contentment for something we feel when we have everything we need. The true meaning of contentment is being happy with what you have. It doesn’t mean you don’t have ambitions to make yourself or your situation better. It simply means that you will do your duty and enjoy every day of the journey without feeling discouraged when faced with injustice, hardship and bad luck.

    3. Tapa (Right Effort)- Tapa is nothing but the right effort we need to practice self-discipline and continually kindle the burning desire to learn. The enthusiasm and thrill you feel while doing something you love is Tapa. Yoga teaches you how to remain in a state of tapa all the time, feeling content, non-judgemental and empathetic attitude towards everything.

    4. Svadhyaya (Self-study)- Yet another crucial but generally overlooked concept is self-study. The happiness, sadness, anger or anxiety we experience is all within us. Once we understand that is not the outside but the inside of us that holds the answers to all our questions, we will be in the path of Svadhyaya.

    5. Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender to the Creator)- When we say surrender to the Creator, it does not mean to surrender to a particular God. It simply means to accept that there is a divine, benevolent essence in the universe. The essence which will be your guiding light, the one that resides in each one of us.

The third limb, Asana, which means to be steady but comfortable. It is in preparation to move towards the Antaranga or the meditative state. Asanas help in making one steady and free of physical distractions so as to enable them to sit still for prolonged intervals of time. A more detailed explanation is given in our video, click the link below to view it.

The final limb of the Bahiranga is the Pranayama, which literally means regulation of the breath or life-force. Practicing Pranayama helps remove distractions and makes it easier to concentrate and meditate. There are many other benefits of pranayama, click the link to see them.

In the next blog, we will discuss the Antaranga or Internal aspect of Yoga. Untill then keep practicing and making an effort to align yourself to better the best version.

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  • Tractors
    Posted at 12:31h, 11 December Reply


    To be honest it’s very rare to get this kind of amazing article to read nowadays
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  • mik raj
    Posted at 15:38h, 26 December Reply


    Thanks for sharing article such as the most useful and unique I am just read this article Bahiranga – The External Aspect of the 8-Fold Path of Yoga.

  • Tractor Price
    Posted at 18:13h, 22 April Reply

    Thanks for share useful information.

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