Ashtanga yoga is a very popular yoga. 8 “limbs” or aspects have been outlined by the ‘Patanjali’. These 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 8 steps act as a guideline to lead a happy and meaningful life.
Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga
- Reduces stress
- Boosts immune system
- 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 basically focuses on your energy. It includes truth, kindness, sexual continence, nonviolence, fortitude, bodily purity, straightforwardness, honesty and moderated diet.
Yama is basically 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 to let go. The activities consist of belief in God, austerity, worship of God, 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 helps us in spiritual growth and develops proper concentration. Staying in one position helps to calm down the mind. A calm mind leads to peaceful and happy mood. Asana helps to explore the inner world and makes the will power 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 the energy. Pranayama is a very important 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 basically 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 concentration on the chakras, which starts from the first and approaches to the seventh, gradually.
7. Dhyana (Meditation without Interruption)
Dhyana means uninterrupted concentration. This kind of concentration needs some efforts. 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 the concentration, without any effort. It helps your conscious to connect to natural ‘samadhi’, which leads to enlightenment. Samadhi is the final step, which basically means union with the Divine. Samadhi takes us one step further, beyond consciousness. In Samadhi, it appears that the body and senses are sleeping, but the mind is active.