Ashtanga Yoga: Revisiting The Eight Steps to Perfection

Ashtanga Yoga: Revisiting The Eight Steps to Perfection

While majority of people think that yoga is just a form of exercise that enhances flexibility, if you go back to its roots, yoga is truly a set of spiritual practices aimed at helping a spiritual aspirant reach self-realization.

Of the different types of yoga, Ashtanga yoga or eight-limbed yoga provides the most comprehensive blue-print for rapidly realizing one’s true divine self. But what is Ashtanga yoga?

In this article, we will revisit this kind of yoga by discussing its different parts or “limbs”.

* Yama and Niyama

Taken together, yama and niyama are the first two limbs of Ashtanga yoga. They are a set of guidelines for human conduct in relation with oneself and others. The object of following these guidelines is not for the sake of following a rule, but to reach mental equilibrium.

* Asana

The third limb of Ashtanga Yoga is asana. An asana is a posture that is based on the posture of animals. It is the most well-known part of yoga, but it is often misunderstood in addition. Asanas are not normal exercises, they are special exercises which have specific effects on the endocrine glands, joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves.

Thousands of years ago yogis used to observe the animals of the forest. They noticed that each animal had certain qualities and that the animals often assumed different poses. By imitating these poses they began to notice important effects on the human body. For example, the peacock is a bird with a powerful digestive system capable of digesting already a poisonous snake. The ancient sages developed a posture for humans, which imitated the peacock, which strengthens the human digestive system.

* Pranayama

Pranayama is also known as the control of vital energy. It is a well-known practice of yoga, but its basic rule is not known and deserves explanation here.

Pranayama is a special course of action of breathing which controls the mind and the pulsing life energy at the center of your chest called the Pranendriya. It helps meditation greatly by readjusting the balance of vital energy in the body.

* Pratyahara

Pratyahara method to withdraw the mind from its preference for external objects. You may have heard of yogis who were so thorough in meditation, they couldn’t already feel pins being stuck into their bodies. Those yogis are the people who have perfected pratyahara.

* Dharana

Dharana method the concentration of the mind at a specific point. In the basic lesson of Tantric meditation, a spiritual aspirant brings his or her mind to a specific chakra which is his or her spiritual and psychic nucleus.

This point (called the Ista chakra) varies from person to person. When the mind is well concentrated on the point, then the time of action of repeating the mantra begins. If the concentration is lost, the aspirant must again bring his or her mind back to the point of concentration.

* Dhyana

This is the time of action whereby the mind is first brought to a particular chakra and then is directed in an unbroken flow towards the Universal Consciousness. This flow continues until the mind becomes completely absorbed in the Universal Consciousness. This course of action is difficult and in the past was only given to a disciple by his guru, after the disciple has practiced all the preceding steps of Ashtanga yoga, particularly Dharana.

* Samadhi

Unlike the seven other limbs of Ashtanga yoga, Samadhi is not a particular method or practice, rather it is the consequence of practicing the other parts of Astaunga yoga. It is the absorption of the mind in Universal Consciousness.

In a state of samadhi, the mind ceases to function, and a person experiences groups of extreme happiness.

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