Steps for Practicing Ashtanga (8 Limbs) Yoga

The term Ashtanga, means eight limbs. It refers to the 8 limbs of yoga. So, Ashtanga Yoga, literally, aims to purify the practitioner’s mind through 8 (Asht) steps.

They are basically prescribed by all schools and branches of Yoga. In Ashtanga Yoga, each and every step has to be mastered before proceeding to the next, or even attempting it.

The 8 steps are as follows:


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The 8 steps are as follows:

  1. Yama (Control)
  2. Niyama (Rules of Conduct
  3. Asanas (Poses)
  4. Pranayama (Breath Control)
  5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of Sensory Perceptions)
  6. Dharana (Concentration)
  7. Dhyana (Uninterrupted Mediation
  8. Samadhi (Complete Equilibrium)

Hence Ashtanga Yoga does not refer to the asanas you do, nor to the order of asanas. Is also has nothing to do with any specific series (Primary Series, Secondary Series, so on and so forth). Nor does the term Ashtanga describe whether you practice more sustained, focused action in poses as described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali; where asana is described as being still and firm.

The aim of Ashtanga Yoga is to embody the traditional eight limbs of yoga (also referred to as Raja Yoga. They have been expounded by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras.

The modern day Pattabhi Jois Vinyasa series (or Ashtanga Vinyasa is known to have derived its origins from an ancient text Yoga Korunta. Having instructed many of the major yoga teachers of the 20th century, including B.K.S. Iyengar and Indra Devi, Krishnamacharya – Pattabhi Jois’s Guru – has a huge influence on most of the modern forms of Yoga being taught today.

He is also said to have played a crucial part in their development.

Ashtanga Yoga is a rather physically demanding practice. It is aimed at channeling hyperactive young minds and restive bodies with the infinite energy of teenage boys.

Modern day Ashtanga Yoga does not aim to change much from that practice. Known for tailoring his teachings to address specific concerns of a person or group Krishnamacharya taught, the Ashtanga Yoga series for adolescents is a outcome of this. Krishnamacharya himself did not practice those series at the time. Also he did not teach experienced practitioners and adults the same way.

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