8 Limbs Of Ashtanga Yoga And Breath Techniques

Ashtanga yoga is a trendy yoga. The’ Patanjali’ outlines 8 “limbs” or aspects. So the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga are; Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Ashtanga is a combination of two Sanskrit words ashta and anga. ‘Ashta’ means 8 and ‘anga’ means limb. These eight steps act as a guideline to lead a happy and meaningful life.

Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

  • Reduces stress
  • Boosts immune system
  • It helps to increase vitality.
  • Weight loss
  • Improves metabolism, digestion, hormone production
  • Pacifies restless thoughts
  • Enhances self-awareness
  • Strengthens cardiovascular system

Overview of Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga

1. Yama (Control)

Yama focuses on your energy. It includes truth, kindness, sexual continence, nonviolence, fortitude, bodily purity, straightforwardness, honesty and a moderate diet.

Yama is divided into 5: Continence (Brahmacharya), non-violence (Ahimsa), non-stealing (Asteya), non-covetousness (Aparigraha), and truthfulness (Satya). 

2. Niyama (Rules of Conduct)

Niyama helps you to decrease the ego, which helps you to let go. The activities consist of belief in God, austerity, worship, satisfaction, power of giving, modesty and japa (repetition of prayers).

Like Yama, Niyama is also classified into 5:Cleanliness (Saucha), spiritual austerities (Tapas), contentment (Santosa), surrender to God (Isvara pranidhana), and study of one’s self and holy scriptures (Sadhyaya).

3. Asana (Posture)

Asana allows you to sit motionless for 3 to 6 hours. The body is known to be the temple of the spirit. Asanas help us in spiritual growth and develops proper concentration. Staying in one position helps to calm down the mind. A calm mind leads to a peaceful and happy mood. Asana helps to explore the inner world and makes willpower stronger. Asana is a way to connect with the inner world and inner peace.

4. Pranayama (Breath Control)

Pranayama helps you to control your mind and breathe. It mainly focuses on storing energy. Pranayama is a fundamental technique when it comes to yoga. There should be a perfect balance of asana and pranayama. Both pranayama and asana are known to be the utmost form of purification and self-discipline.

5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of Sensory Perceptions)

Pratyahara withdraws your attention from the sensory inputs, so it won’t be able to disturb your meditation. It focuses on purifying the sensory inputs. Eventually, ‘prana’ is detached from the ‘nadis’ that helps to transport sensory input.

6. Dharana (Concentration)

Dharana helps the mind to focus on any object (single), like the concentration on the chakras, which starts from the first and approaches the seventh gradually.

7. Dhyana (Meditation without Interruption)

Dhyana means uninterrupted concentration. This kind of concentration needs some effort. Through dhyana, we become aware of the reality of this materialistic world. We come to a realisation that the only reality is Lord. All things become crystal clear to us.

8. Samadhi (Effortless Meditation)

Samadhi focuses on maintaining concentration without any effort. It helps your conscious to connect to natural ‘samadhi’, which leads to enlightenment. Samadhi is the final step, which means union with the Divine. Samadhi takes us one step further, beyond consciousness. In Samadhi, the body and senses sleep, but the mind is active.

Ashtanga Yoga Breathing

Ashtanga Yoga, a dynamic and physically demanding style of yoga, incorporates specific breathing techniques called “ujjayi breath” or “victorious breath.” Here’s an explanation of Ashtanga Yoga breathing:

  1. Ujjayi Breath: Ujjayi breath is a deep, audible breath that creates a gentle sound by slightly constricting the back of the throat. It is performed through the nose during the inhale and exhale. This breathing technique helps to control and lengthen the breath, focusing the mind, and generating internal heat in the body.
  2. Inhalation: During inhalation in Ashtanga Yoga, practitioners strive to breathe deeply into the lower abdomen, expanding the belly. This deep belly breath fills the lungs from the bottom up, allowing maximum oxygen intake.
  3. Exhalation: The exhalation in Ashtanga Yoga is performed by drawing the belly in slightly and actively engaging the abdomen muscles. The breath is released slowly and controlled, maintaining the constriction at the back of the throat to regulate air flow.
  4. Matching Breath to Movement: In Ashtanga Yoga, the breath is coordinated with movement. Each posture or asana is typically associated with a specific breath count. The breath initiates and accompanies the movement, creating a rhythmic flow between poses.
  5. Continuous Breath: Maintaining a continuous and steady breath throughout the Ashtanga Yoga practice is essential. The breath becomes the anchor that keeps practitioners focused and present, helping to synchronize body and mind.

The ujjayi breath in Ashtanga Yoga supports the energetic and physical demands of the practice. It aids in building heat, increasing endurance, and finding a sense of moving meditation. With regular practice, the breath becomes a powerful tool for cultivating mindfulness, enhancing concentration, and deepening the connection between body, breath, and movement.