Sage Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga : Eight fold path of Yoga

Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga:- In Sanskrit "Ashta + anga" is Ashtanga. "Ashta" means Eight and "Anga" is limbs so it means Eight Limb path, ashtanga yoga is based on Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali. The asanas, Pranayamas or the dharana which we have studied earlier or the yam and niyam are based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Hence, we will acquaint ourselves with the fundamentals as stated by Patanjali first.

History of Ashtanga Yoga


Yoga has its roots about 5000 years BC as described in Vedic Philosophy and Tantras. Patanjali , great sage composed this path into a Darshan(Philosophy) in his Book Patanjal Yoga Sutra.
The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine. Because we are all uniquely individual a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding.

Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga

  1. Yama : (Principles or moral code)
    1. Ahimsa - A principle of non-violence
    2. Satya - A principle of Truthfulness
    3. Asteya - A principle of non stealing
    4. Brahmacharya - Continence / celibacy
    5. Aparigah - A principle of non-hoarding or non possessiveness.
  2. Niyama : Personal Disciplines)
    1. Shoucha - Purity
    2. Santosh - Contentment
    3. Tapa - Endurance
    4. Swadhyaya- Self study
    5. Eshwar Pranidhan- Dedication
  3. Asan - (Yoga Postures / positions)
    • A stable and comfortable posture which helps attain mental equilibrium.
  4. Pranayama - (Yoga Breathing)
    • Extension and control of breath.
  5. Pratyahara - (Withdrawal of Senses)
    • A mental preparation to increase the power of mind.
  6. Dharana - (Concentration on Object)
    • Concentration of mind on one object and its field.
  7. Dhyan - (Meditation)
    • With drawing mind from all external objects and Focusing it on one point and meditating on it.
  8. Samadhi - (Salvation)
    • State of Super bliss, joy and merging individual consciousness in to universal consciousness. Union between Jivatman and Paramatman. Union of Shiva and Shakti in Sahasrar Chakra (the top of the head). Realizing the Bramhan (pure consciousness) or Realization of God is the ultimate achievement of Human Birth.
The first two limbs that Patanjali describes are the fundamental ethical precepts called yamas, and the niyamas. These can also be looked at as universal morality and personal observances. Yamas and niyamas are the suggestions given on how we should deal with people around us and our attitude toward ourselves. The attitude we have toward things and people outside ourselves is yama, how we relate to ourselves inwardly is niyama. Both are mostly concerned with how we use our energy in relationship to others and to ourselves.
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