What is Ashtanga Yoga ?


In the mythological period, Maharishi Patanjali has defined Yoga as Chittavrittinirodha and he has compiled a collection of Yoga Sutras named “Yoga Sutra”, in which he has elaborated a path of Eight-limbed Yoga for complete well-being and physical, and mental and spiritual purification. Ashtanga Yoga means yoga with eight limbs in which all eight dimensions are practiced simultaneously. Under Ashtanga Yoga, the first five limbs – Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, and Pratyahara are called “external” and the remaining three limbs – Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi are called “Antaranga”. Before starting internal sadhana, a person has to first complete external sadhana.


It means restraint and there are five types.

  1. Ahinsa: Not causing unnecessary harm to anyone through words, thoughts, and actions.
  2. Satya: Truthfulness in thoughts, remaining situated in the ultimate truth, speaking authentic things as per the thoughts in the mind.
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  4. Asteya: Do not steal.
  5. Brahmacharya: It has two meanings – to fix the consciousness in the knowledge of Brahma and to exercise restraint in all sense-generated pleasures.
  6. Aparigraha: Not being greedy not accumulating more than necessary and not desiring the things of others.


Like Yama, there are five types of rules.

  1. Shaucha: purification of body and mind.
  2. Santosh: Being satisfied and happy.
  3. Tap To be disciplined by oneself.
  4. Swadhyaya: Self-reflection.
  5. Ishwar Pranidhan: Complete dedication and complete devotion towards God.


Asana means stable and comfortable sitting posture, which is the practice of body stability. Body control through yoga asanas.


The cessation of breathing while chanting asanas is called pranayama. The inhaling of external air is called breathing and the expelling of internal air is called exhalation. Pranayama is the practice of maintaining vitality. Its practice brings stability in life and the seeker moves towards stability of his mind. It means control of prana through special techniques related to breathing.


When the prana becomes relatively calm through pranayama, the extroverted feeling of the mind naturally reduces due to which the senses move away from their external objects and become introverted. This is called pratyahara (prati = adverse, ahara = instinct). Turning the senses inward, moving those senses away from their objects, and imitating the form of a concentrated mind is Pratyahara. With Pratyahara, the senses remain under control, and complete victory over them is achieved.


When the outward movement of the mind is stopped, it turns inward and tries to become stable. The name of the initial state of this effort is perception. Focusing the mind on any part of the body or an external object, such as God, is called “Dharana”. To concentrate is to control your mind.


This is the further state of perception when the knowledge of the target object flows uniformly. It is necessary to concentrate the mind in both the states of Dharana and Dhyana, but the difference is that in Dharana, the mind can be engaged in more than one thing, but in Dhyana, the mind gets fixed on one thing.


Samadhi is the maturity of meditation among Ashtanga Yoga. In this the entire world becomes void and the mind becomes absorbed only in God. Samadhi is the state of connecting with the soul and being beyond words. After Samadhi, wisdom arises and this is the ultimate goal of Yoga.

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