Ashtanga Yoga And Eight Limbed Poses

By Patricia | April 19, 2009
Eight-Limbed Yoga Postures

What is Asthanga yoga? How could it be beneficial to me?

Yoga is an ancient discipline that concentrates on the healing of the body and mind. This discipline originated in India 3,000 years ago and has since then branched out into several sub-disciplines. One such type of yoga is Ashtanga yoga. Another common name for Ashtanga yoga is Raja yoga. Ashtanga yoga is commonly confused with Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga developed by Pattabhi Jois. These two forms of yoga are completely different from each other.

Ashtanga yoga has been popularised by Patanjali, a guru of yoga since around the 1950's. This type of yoga revolves around the idea that the path to purification and self-realisation is composed of eight practices. Ashtanga yoga literally means 'eight-limbed yoga'. These eight practises include Yama or moral codes, Niyama or self-purification, Asanas or postures, Pranayama or breathing exercises, Pratyahara or sense control, Dharana or concentration, Dhyana or meditation, and Samadhi or a quiet state of blissful awareness. The former four are considered to be external cleansing practises while the latter four are internal cleansing practices.

Yama is a code of conduct involving non-violence, non-covetousness, celibacy and truthfulness. Niyama prescribes mental exercises to train the mind to control emotions. Asanas develop physical health and flexibility and more importantly stimulate the body's vital energy. Pranayama improves breath control and increases your awareness of it. By doing so, one learns to control 'prana' or life's force. Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the sense from any sensory objects. It is particularly difficult and cannot be achieved without successfully completing the preceding limbs.

Dharana provides the vital link to Dhyana, where deep concentration leads to meditation. It is advisable to perform both these practises in seclusion and in silence. You should also consume a satvic or pure diet, where food is fresh and healthy. Over-indulging and consuming processed foods does not aid the practise of Ashtanga yoga. After going through all the above stages, it is said that you can achieve Samadhi. In layman terms, Samadhi refers to enlightenment.

Ashtanga yoga aims at improving the body and mind's overall state of health. When purification is complete and mind control occurs, the six sins such as kama, krodha, moha, mada, matsarya, and lobha, which are desire, anger, delusion, greed, sloth and envy respectively.

You must practice Ashtanga yoga religiously as part of your daily regimen to achieve full benefits. It is vital that you attend a class with a guru prior to following this type of yoga on your own as it is a complicated process.

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