Yoga is a state of physical, mental and spiritual discipline. It covers the three aspects of a human being, the physical, mental and spiritual aspect which brings balance to the body and serenity to the soul.
Ashtanga Yoga is also one of the types of yoga which involve certain postures bringing heat to the body and sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs.
Ashtanga yoga especially helps improve the circulation of a person.
Ashtanga yoga is helping many people throughout the world to balance the mental, physical and spiritual pressures and stresses posed by the modern world we live in today, says Pattabhi Jois, the pioneer of modern day Ashtanga Yoga.
The 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga means “eight-limbed yoga”. Yoga focuses on recognizing the body as an individual and treating it with respect just like any individual would like to be treated.
It also treats the body as something highly spiritual and recommends that the person discovers the body in a new light. Ashtanga yoga also reveals the “Self” to the person.
This yoga was written by the Sage Vamana Rishi in the ancient manuscript, Yoga Korunta.
The 8 spiritual practices are required to complete the journey to discovering the Universal self.
- Yama [moral codes]
- Niyama [self-purification and study]
- Asana [posture]
- Pranayama [breath control]
- Pratyahara [sense control]
- Dharana [concentration]
- Dhyana [meditation]
- Samadhi [absorption into the Universal]
There are 2 types of practices involved in doing Ashtanga Yoga, external cleansing practices, and internal cleansing practices. This yoga is one of the most popular forms of yoga and is widely practiced these days.
Following is a description of these 8 spiritual practices:
Yama is essentially about self-control of your worldly desires and anything in general which would provide difficult for you to concentrate on a physical and mental well being.
It’s a list of ‘Don’ts’ such that all the good qualities like honesty, truthfulness, and discipline are followed avoiding the bad ones.
A person who is proficient at this stage is expected to have qualities of being nonviolent, steadfast and straightforward.
This stage involves letting go of your ego and making yourself free from any sort of pride. Its key activities involve believing in God, contentment, and self-sacrifice.
The person, who becomes adept at this stage, will be faithful, modest, and closer to God.
Asana is mastering the sitting body postures. There are many postures from which one can choose and master it. It aims at making the body motionless to achieve complete calm and a feeling of lightness.
If a person becomes skilled at this stage, he will have the ability to sit motionless for 3-6 hours.
Since you control your breath at this stage, after becoming profound at this stage, you will be able to control your breath for many minutes, which can help during swimming.
This stage is about controlling your five senses and the messages they sent to the brain. When you try to block them, your mind will be more focused on meditation.
Sometimes meditative sounds are also changed to achieve this goal. You can completely close any messages from your senses after going through this stage; it’s as if you will be numb free from all emotions.
This stage is attained by concentrating at a single point of focus. This can be achieved by reciting a certain mantra or concentrating on an object or by focusing on six centers of the chakra.
After this stage, your mind will always focus on one thing at a time.
You have to clear your mind of all thoughts in this part.
This last and final stage of Ashtanga yoga is reached when a person doesn’t have to do extra effort to maintain natural concentration.
It comes from within and is a part of the Self. This will also lead to enlightenment and complete composure of the mind.
This stage will connect you to the universe bringing yourself in a stage of cosmic consciousness. (Cosmic consciousness is thinking of you as an integral part of the universe and that all beings of the universe are interconnected.)
Ashtanga yoga also requires some sort of physical workout to make it effective. Ashtanga yoga is getting extremely popular these days especially in the USA.
This mental and physical exercise requires a lot of effort, but it becomes a source of contentment for the mind, body, and soul. Ashtanga Yoga is a century old practice and should be done with proper care and interest.