The literal meaning of “Ashtanga Yoga” is eight -limbed Yoga. This form of yoga was first outlined by the Sage Patanjali in his Yoga sutras. As per the sutras the eight spiritual practices in Ashtanga Yoga leads to self purification and reveals self to the universal consciousness.
The Eight Limbs are:
- Yama – It consists of moral codes which have to be practiced with yoga.
- Niyama – It means disciplining life by knowledge and routine.
- Asana – Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga introduces poses (Asanas) only in the third step. This starts with simple postures and goes on to most challenging ones.
- Pranayama – After completing the Asana routine, one has to do breathing control via Pranayama. Pranayam is the flow of air in and out of nostrils and lungs which balance the energy flow in the body.
- Pratyahara – The control of senses is the next step in this form of yoga. The practice makes you control your senses and increase or decrease the flow of energy. Seasoned yogis can virtually listen to your words from
thousands of kilometers. Yes it is real!
- Dharana – The sixth step is the practice of concentrating. This leads to the next step where concentration is most important.
- Meditation – This step is supposedly the most important part of Ashtanga Yoga. As concentration mastering has been done you can ease into the meditative state.
- Samadhi – This is the higher form of meditation when the body sleeps and the consciousness merges with the universal energy source.
The first four steps are for cleansing the body externally, and the propagator of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in modern age Shri Pattabhi Jois says that the practice can be corrected if faulty. However he says that the next four steps known as internal cleansing cannot be corrected but has to be re-learnt if not taught in the correct manner.