“The full ashtanga system practiced with devotion leads to freedom within one’s heart.”
Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
Ashtanga yoga is Sanskrit word made up of two different words “Ashta + anga”. “Ashta” means Eight and “Anga” is limbs so it means the Eight limbs. Ashtanga yoga literally means “eight-limbed yoga,” as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. The path of Health Incarnation to achieve the ultimate health, we need to follow the eight practices inscribed by Patanjali thousands of years ago.
The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga:
1. Yama (Principles or moral code)
Yama is the first of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in the yoga sutras. Yama is also sometimes called “the five restraints” because it describes what one should avoid to advance on the path of self-Incarnation
Non-violence or harmlessness. This cannot always be practiced literally since it is not always possible in the normal course of living. Even washing one’s hands kills bacteria. To perfect ahimsa one must not wish harm on any creature.
Non-lying or truthfulness. This doesn’t mean to be tactless, but to always tell the highest truth. It is in the “restraints” category because if one restrains oneself from wishing things were other than they are, one will always tell the truth.
Non-covetousness. Not wishing for more than one has, or for what another has.
Sexual self-restraint. Literally means “flowing with Bramha.” This is often translated as celibacy, but can also just be taken as sexual self-control, or overcoming sexual desire. According to the yoga sutras, this practice will give one great mental and physical stamina because it prevents one’s energy from being expended in sexuality. Self control in all things is the direction of true growth.
Non-possessiveness. Letting go of all attachment to one’s possessions, including one’s body, and being willing to relinquish them all at a moment’s notice.
2. Niyama (Personal Disciplines)
Niyama second of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, is the Sanskrit term for a duty or observance recommended by yogic philosophy and teaching as part of the path of yoga. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he outlines five niyamas as part of the second limb of yoga.
These niyamas are all practices that can be considered inner observances. They are a way of applying the ethical codes of yoga to the student’s own mind, body and spirit, helping to create a positive environment internally.
purification, cleanliness and clarity of mind, communication and physical body. This recognizes that the yogi’s external environment affects his/her inner purity. Practices such as meditation can help to cultivate the cleanliness of mind specified by saucha.
Contentment and acceptance of the world, oneself and circumstances exactly as they are. This means letting go of cravings for what one doesn’t have. Doing this is said to end one’s suffering.
Asceticism or intense self-discipline and willpower, even through discomfort. This recognizes the need to sometimes do what is difficult or unpleasant in order to have a positive effect on one’s life and existence.
Study of the self, and the practice of self-reflection. This may include using the scriptures or sacred texts as a tool for introspection. It means seeing who one is in the moment as well as exploring one’s connection with the Divine.
Surrender to and contemplation of the Divine or Supreme Being. This includes dedicating and devoting one’s work to a higher power and dissolving ego-focused desires.
3. Asana (Yoga Positions / Postures)
Third of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali define “asana” as “to be seated in a position that is steady but relaxed”
4. Pranayama (Breathing Exercises)
Fourth of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, It is the set of breathing techniques where the breath is intentionally altered in order to produce specific results
5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of Senses)
Fifth of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, it refers to the withdrawal of the five senses from external objects to be replaced by the mentally created senses of an enlightened deity to increase the power of mind.
6. Dharana (Concentration on Object)
Sixth of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, Dhāraṇā may be translated as “holding”, “holding steady”, “concentration” or “single focus”.[ Concentration of mind on one object and its field. That is single-pointed concentration and focus
7. Dhyan (Meditation)
Seventh of the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga, Dhyana involves concentration and meditation on a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it. This deeper concentration of the mind is the instrument of self-knowledge where one can separate illusion from reality. This is actually the Meditation.
8. Samadhi (Bliss, or union with the source)
The term ‘Samadhi’ derives from the root sam-a-dha, which means ‘to collect’ or ‘bring together’, and thus it is often translated as ‘concentration’ or ‘unification of mind’. In the early Buddhist texts, samadhi is also associated with the term samatha (calm abiding). In the commentarial tradition, samadhi is defined as ekaggata, one-pointedness of mind.
Following the Eight limbs, Ashtanga Yoga we can incarnate our health and attain the ultimate bliss.
Also Read: http://www.ashtanga.com/html/background.html