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What are the 8 limbs of Ashtanga?

Ashtanga - ASHTA - 8 ANGA - Limbs.


I spoke about what the 8 limbs of Ashtanga in a previous post, but wanted to go through it in a little more detail.


These are ordered in the way they are because you are to practice them in order...


1) YAMA

Yama is self-restraint / self control. This is broken down in 5 important categories.


Ahimsa - This means gentleness.

  • Mental - we still need to think gentle thoughts because violent thoughts can lead to violent actions, behaviours and attitudes.

  • Verbal - speak in gentle language and tone.

  • Physical - this goes without saying, but of course we need to keep our physical action gentle.

Satya - Truthfulness

  • Investigate the truth with an open mind - e.g if you have an idea of what you believe in your head, seek the truth without bias to fit your own idea. Otherwise you are lying to yourself or seeking something which will never materialise.

  • Even in truth we still need to practice Ahimsa - gentleness. Speak the truth in a gentle way.

Asteya - Non-Stealing

  • Fulfilling responsibility - this doesn't just mean taking something from a shop without paying, this also means not taking more than your fair amount. E.G if you got paid for 5 hours of work and you only did 3.

Brahmacarya- 'Celibacy'

  • Non-temptation - not wasting energy on things which don't matter so they can be directed into the right places.

Aparigraha - Non-possessiveness / non collecting.

  • When you collect or hoard things, there is an imbalance. BE ready to share not just your possessions but your knowledge.


2) NIYAM

Rules to Follow or personal discipline


Shaucha - Cleaning / purification/ personal hygiene.

  • If you do not keep yourself clean, you will contaminate.

  • Clean physically with Shatkarmas internally too.

  • Keep your mind clear with fasting, Focussed gazing (dristi), meditation, Pranayama etc.

Santosha - contentment, satisfaction, acceptance and appreciation.

  • Appreciate what you have, find contentment in your current condition and what you have to be thankful for in your situation.

Tapa - Self discipline for continuous effort to your goals.

  • Strive for improvement but don't forget what you already have (Santosha). Put effort into goals you want to achieve.

Svādhyāya - 'self study' or 'self observation'

  • We reach heights step by step.

  • we can become to be aware of our progress with introspection and that will keep your motivation.

  • Learning more with material to study.

TIP - from my philosophy teacher, take 5 minutes each day to go over and summarize your day. It gives you a chance to process, remember and learn from your day.


Ishvarapranidhana - 'Devotion to God'.

  • Patanjali said 'God' is 'pure consciousness.' YOu are free from all bondages and desires and temptation.

  • God is something higher than me, in order to know what is higher than 'me', I need to know what 'me' is.

  • Surrendering to the moment / yourself/ what you are doing. To surrender our individual ego identities to God (our own higher self) we will attain the identity of God.

3) ASANA

Posture - Sthir sukham Asanam is what we are looking for. Comfortable, steady posture. This means we are able to meditate for a long time comfortable in our body.

  • In yogic practice and philosophy, the body has many energy channels and works like an antenna. The reason alignment is so important is because you want to keep those channels open to accept the energy.

  • Asana practice helps to eliminate aliments and allow the practitioner to have a healthy body to be able to remove the physical blockages to assist long hours of meditation without physical discomfort.

4) PRANAYAMA

PRANA - Expansion AYAMA - life force.

  • Being able to harness the energy of your breath to expand your life force.

More on this here.

https://www.mycityyoga.com/post/what-is-pranayama-and-how-do-you-do-it


5) PRATYAHARA

'WIthdrawing the senses' or 'discipline of senses'

  • Stopping of outside factors e.g 'what is that sound'?

  • Taking control of your desires and senses - e.g if you know you cannot eat certain foods because you have stomach issues, you need to use your discipline of your senses.

  • Understanding where you should and shouldn't engage your senses. When you let all the senses run wild your mind can get clouded.

6) DHARANA

Concentration - the effort we make to keep the mind in one place.

  • A lot of people think that meditation is 'thinking about nothing' - but actually before you 'meditate' you need to learn to concentrate. And this is the same thing - but Dhana is the step before - requiring a conscious effort to keep your mind from wandering.

  • Like absolutely anything, concentration requires training and practice. The more you do it, the easier it will get.

7) DHYANA

Meditation - this is EFFORTLESS concentration.

  • Once you are able to focus your mind for long periods with effort, you will find that it will start to come effortlessly.

  • From here we are aiming to dissolving reality, self and illusion to reach the ultimate goal....step 8.

8) SAMADHI

Dissolving where there is no 'I' and you are able to reveal your true self.

  • What does this really mean? Reaching Samadhi means true realisation of life without attachments, ego or lables. It's seeing the world clearing and becoming part of it as one in union without ties to anything. It's the true freedom.


If you are truly on a yogic journey, the steps are outlined above and you begin to understand that yoga is not just pretty backbends on instagram and its a real quest which practitioners dedicate their life to.