Ashtanga

Ashtanga

Here, I think appropriate to share a definition of  ”what is Yoga?” by Sri Kriyananda

“Great truths are universally relevant, and consequently defy every narrowing attempt at definition.

Take, as the sublime example, love – God Himself – or, at a more prosaic level, such seemingly mechanical functions of Nature as gravity and electromagnetism.

Such a truth – and in fact one closely related to love – is yoga.

Yoga, a Sanskrit word, means union. From this root is derived our own English word yoke. The union implied here is an eternal truth. It is not something to be achieved by artifice. True union can only be recognized; it cannot be created.

Both love and yoga can be understood better through their active expression then by static definition. They are experiential truths, and not mere abstractions.

The practice of yoga, then, is a process of self-discovery. It is an awakening of long-somnolent memories of who and what we really are: within ourselves, an integral whole; externally, an integral part of all that is.

Look upon this ancient science, in other words, not as a study apart from the life you normally live, but as integral to every aspect of it, even the most familiar and mundane”

Ashtanga Yoga : The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Patanjali, an ancient yogi-sage, integrated and simplified the science of Yoga concisely in his Yoga Sutras during the 3rd century AD. These sutras can be considered as a collection of aphorisms on yoga. They are referred to as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and are not the original exposition of a philosophy, but a compilation of work.

In them, he divided the path of Raja Yoga (‘Royal Yoga’, the king of yogas) into eight limbs, referred to as Ashtanga Yoga.  ‘Ashta’ means ‘eight’ and ‘anga’ means ‘limb’.

These eight limbs give us an understanding of the deeper purposes and directions of yoga. They were devised by him to show us through yoga practice how to attain self-realisation.

Yoga is integration and wholeness; only the eight limbs practised together constitute yoga.

The eight limbs are :

1 Yama : moral and ethical restraints – social discipline

2 Niyama : observances – individual discipline

3 Asana : posture, seat

4 Pranayama : control of the life-energy through the breath

5 Pratyahara : mind withdrawal from the senses

6 Dharana : concentration

7 Dhyana : meditation

8 Samadhi : superconsciouness

Asana is a ‘Posture with an attitude in which the body is kept steady (motionless), while producing a feeling of ease’

The purpose of yoga postures is to harmonize the inner source of energy, and direct it towards the higher brain centres, to expand one’s awareness and consciousness.

It removes tension, toxins and impurities and releases energy blocks. It promotes perfect health, rejuvenation and longevity.