web analytics

What is Ashtang Yoga? The Basics Of The Eightfold Path

Ashtang Yoga is a way of life. It is all the things that we adopt into our lives when we are on a spiritual journey. Asht is a Sanskrit word meaning 8 and anga means parts. The physical aspect of Yoga is but a minuscule branch of Yoga and its 8 limbs. Although Ashtang yoga is an age-old practice, it was systematized by Maharishi Patanjali in his book ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, back in the 2nd century BC. That is why he is called the father of Yog. In is book, he has consolidated 95 sutras or aphorisms into 8 limbs. We call it Ashtanga Yoga.

what is ashtanga yoga and its 8 limbs. what is ashtanga yoga, yogsutras of patanjali are consolidated into 8 limbs, namely yama, niyama, asana, pranayam, pratyahara, dharana, dhyan and samadhi
The Eight limbs of Yoga

What is Ashtanga Yoga and its Eight Limbs

According to Rishi Patanjali, the 8 limbs of Yoga are:

  1. Yama– the abstinences concerning the outside world: what a yogi should not do
  2. Niyama– the observances in relation to the inside world- what a yogi should do
  3. Asana – the practice of postures/asanas to prepare the body for Pranayam & Dhyan
  4. Pranayam – techniques that promote the flow of the life force(prana) in the Nadis
  5. Pratyahara – to be able to withdraw the senses: to have control over them & not them controlling you
  6. Dharna – concentrating the mind on a single area: focussing without distraction
  7. Dhyanmeditation: focussed awareness of higher aspects of reality for self-realization
  8. Samadhi – complete integration with the true nature of your soul: the highest state of consciousness transcending through the self.  

The first four practices are Yama, Niyama, Asan and, Pranayam. These first 4 limbs focus on the outer elements- of the body, the breath, attitude, and behaviour. The outer practices are also called Bahiranga Yog. The fifth limb Pratayahara is in the middle, it is the connecting piece between the outside and the inside. Dharana, Dhyan, and Samadhi are the Antarang Yog, the inside yoga that teaches what is going on in the inner world and how to connect. 

Types of Yog Sutras

You may broadly divide the types of Yog Sutras as:

  1. Bahiranga – improving your outer world(yam, niyam, asana, pranayam)
  2. Pratyahara – the bridge: withdrawing the senses inwards
  3. Antarang – improving your inner world( dharna, dhyan, samadhi)
what is ashtanga yoga, yogsutras of patanjali
Connecting the Inner & Outer world with the Divine

Most of us only think of yog as the physical part that we perform on the mat. It is wonderful for your physical & mental health. However, it is just one of its eight limbs. The word Yoga means Union, not just body twisting and stretching. The Yog Sutras in their totality signify consciously exterminating the boundaries you have set up and expanding them in such a way that you experience the entire universe as part of yourself. 

When everything becomes One. That is the Union. To be in perfect tune- the body, mind, spirit, and existence in absolute harmony. 

The world celebrates International Yog Diwas on 21st June to raise awareness about the importance & impact of yoga on people’s health.

Before you go…

I hope you gained something from this overview of what is Ashtanga Yoga & the 8 limbs. Remember, we have derived all this from the Patanjali’s Yoga sutras. In my next post, I will talk about the eight limbs in detail and how to apply them in life. To learn more, it is a good idea to read the book yourself.