Ashtanga Yoga

November 30, 2023

Yoga Shastra

Ashtanga Yoga

What is Ashtanga Yoga?

Many yoga practitioners especially beginners often get confused about what is Ashtanga Yoga. Is it a style of yoga posture or is it part of yoga philosophy or what else?

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of yoga that was developed by the sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras more than 2000 years ago. It consists of eight limbs or paths that one can follow to achieve a state of union with the divine. These eight paths are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Read more about the eight paths or limb below.


The Ashtanga Yoga Practice/ Mysore style

Ashtanga Yoga is a style of yoga practice that is sometimes confused with the broader concept of yoga philosophy which we mentioned above. This style of Yoga was developed by a master Pattabhi Jois in the 20th century and is characterized by a vigorous and athletic approach to yoga. It consists of six series of asanas, each building upon the previous series in terms of difficulty and intensity. The practice is meant to be done in a flowing, continuous manner with synchronized breath and movement.

While Ashtanga Yoga is not the only style of yoga practice, it has gained popularity in recent years due to its physical challenges and potential health benefits. However, it is important to remember that Ashtanga Yoga is just one aspect of the broader yoga philosophy, which has a rich history and many different branches and traditions.


Eight Paths of Yoga

1. Yama: refers to the ethical principles that one should follow in their daily life. These include non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-possessiveness.

2. Niyama: refers to the personal disciplines that one should cultivate in their life. These include cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study, and surrender to a higher power.

The first two limbs, Yama and Niyama, involve ethical and moral principles that guide a practitioner towards a harmonious and peaceful life.


3. Asana: refers to the physical postures that one should practice to improve their physical health and strength. The practice of asanas also helps to prepare the body for meditation.

4. Pranayama: refers to the control of one’s breath. It involves different breathing techniques that can help to calm the mind and improve one’s overall health.


5. Pratyahara: refers to the withdrawal of the senses from external objects. This helps to focus the mind and prepare it for meditation.

Pranayama and Pratyahara, involve breathing techniques and sensory control to help calm the mind and focus inwardly.

6. Dharana: refers to the concentration of the mind on a single object or point. This helps to develop mental focus and clarity.

7. Dhyana: refers to the practice of meditation. Through meditation, one can achieve a state of deep relaxation and inner peace.

8. Samadhi: refers to the state of union with the divine. It is the ultimate goal of Ashtanga Yoga and can be achieved through the practice of the other seven limbs.

The final three limbs, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi, build upon the previous steps to reach a state of meditation and union with the divine.

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