Ashtanga Yoga - The Eightfold Path
The Yoga Sutras, composed by a sage called Patanjali are the first comprehensive written texts on yoga. Patanjali wrote 196 sutras full of wisdom covering all aspects of life. Ashtanga Yoga is the royal eightfold yoga, with the intention to guide us back to the our hearts truth: the state of unlimited ecstasy and freedom that forms the core of our being. Patanjali calls this state objectless samadhi. Yoga as devised by Patanjali is not just asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing) or meditation (dhyana) but consists of eight limbs. Each limb is connected to the whole and are not stages to be achieved in succession.
The Eight Limbs:
1. Universal principles (yamas)
2. Observances (niyamas)
- Non Violence (ahimsa)
- Truth (satya)
- Non-stealing (asteya)
- Celibacy (brahmacarya)
- Non accumulation (aparigraha)
3. Postures (asanas)
- Cleanliness (saucha)
- Contentment (samtosha)
- Forbearance of opposites / perseverance (tapas)
- Self study (svadhyaya)
- Devotion to the Devine (ishvara pranidhana)
4. Breath awareness (pranayama)
- Asanas should be carried out with comfort, joy and steadiness, when practiced with full awareness you will purify the body and mind.
5. Sense withdrawal (pratyahara)
- Extension and control of the breath. 'Prana' is the vital life force. Patanjali devoted five sutras to breathing alone.
6. Concentration (dharana)
- A mental preparation to increase the power of the mind. By silencing the senses and taking the mind inwards once can unite with self.
7. Meditation (dhyana)
- Concentration of mind on one object or on what one is doing. There are no techniques for dharana it is a state of mind that arises spontaneously. Through dharana the mind becomes still.
8. Bliss (samadhi)
- Dhyana is about just being, the benefits can only be experienced through dedicated practice and has to be experienced personally to truly understand it.
- State of joyful bliss, merging individual consciousness with universal consciousness which is the ultimate realization of pure consciousness. In this state you loose consciousness of the body, breath, mind, intelligence and ego and reside in a state of peace and bliss in which wisdom, humility and simplicity shine through.