Ashtanga yoga is an extremely vigorous form of yoga that strengthens the body and tones into the ideal shape. It requires a perfect coordination of body movements and breathing techniques to practice this kind of yoga. It produces a lot of heat that leads to sweating and through this process, the body gets detoxified.
As the name suggests, ashtanga yoga literally means “eight-limbed yoga”, that has been mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It is said that these yoga postures help in inner purification and ultimately lead you to the path of self-realization.
There are eight spiritual practices that combine together to form the various limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. These are as follows:
Yama - These are the moral ethics that are also referred to as the “abstinences” or the “don’ts”. Patanjali states five yamas that must be followed to gain eternal bliss - Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (Non-stealing), Brahmacharya (chastity) and Aparigraha (non-avarice).
Niyama - The rules that must be followed to attain self-purification - Shauch (purity), Santosha (satisfaction), Tapas (persistence), Svadhyaya (self-introspection) and Ishvarapranidhana (contemplation of the Supreme Being).
Asana - It is assumed that asanas are the crux of Ashtanga Yoga. But this is not true. Asanas just form a part of this Yoga and is not just a medium of physical activity. It is about sitting for long hours with a straight spine without making any movement. It takes a calm mind and a flexible body to attain a meditative state with a stable posture.
Pranayama - Pranayama is casually referred to as “control of breath.” But what we are actually controlling is not just our breath but rather the flow of energy in our body that moves along with the breath. We can draw the positive energy from the outer environment through inhaling and exhale out the negative energy of the body. Due to this reason, pranayama is such an important component of Ashtanga Yoga.
Pratyahara - Pratayara is basically all about “controlling your senses.” It is about delving into your inner consciousness and closing your minds to the sensory world. It is the step that marks the transit from the outside world to your inner self. Through this process, you can take the control of your external world over yourself and give it to your inner consciousness.
Dhyana - As the name suggests, Dhyana is all about contemplating on the divine consciousness and indulging in profound meditation. It is a direct outcome of Dharana as both are related to one another. With the help of utmost concentration, you can experience the blissfulness of deep meditation.
Samadhi - Samadhi is the process of becoming one with the universal power, the Supreme Being. It is the ultimate spiritual state where you get so absorbed in the process of meditation that your consciousness merges with the divine consciousness ruling over the universe and you attain the state of oneness with the entire universe.
Thus, we may conclude that Ashtanga Yoga is not just limited to some set postures that can help you achieve the physical fitness of the body. There is so much more to it that is still unexplored and not yet experienced by the common man.
The Science of ashtanga yoga
Ashtanga yoga is a deep spiritual practice that brings you on the same plane with the divine consciousness that holds extreme power over the universe. It is all about controlling your mind and senses in such a way that you become your own master.
By practicing Ashtanga yoga on a daily basis, you can become immune to the effects of the external world on your mind, body and spirit. When you practice this form, you develop a feeling of surrender towards your inner consciousness and become a loyal follower of the Supreme Being. This feeling of surrender helps you gain the confidence of the Divine Power and thus enables you to achieve the state of eternal bliss.
How to perform ashtanga yoga?
Ashtanga yoga is quite a complicated form of yoga that is quite difficult to learn. You can get acquainted with this form of yoga only after facing numerous defeats and dejections if you are new to the field of yoga. Due to this reason, it is often combined with vinyasa yoga to create a fusion form Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga that mainly concentrates on physical fitness.
But that does not mean that you cannot learn ashtanga yoga. With continuous practices, numerous failures and unending determination, you can ultimately gain all the knowledge about this yoga practice.
Ashtanga Yoga combines all the different forms of the limbs where the breath is often more important than the pose. Also, it must come to you naturally, you must not force yourself to complete the yoga sessions in a hurry. And always remember that it requires constant practice sessions early in the morning, with a never give up attitude and a plant-based diet to perfect the art of Ashtanga Yoga.
Benefits of ashtanga yoga
Ashtanga yoga is a cleansing technique that channelizes the energies of the body through the medium of postures and meditation. There are numerous benefits associated with this type of yoga. Some of them are mentioned below:
Ashtanga yoga can help in reducing problems associated with the spine such as back pain, sore muscles, etc.
A regular practice can strengthen your body by channeling the flow of energy by clearing off the blockages.
It enhances the flexibility of your body, tones it up and promotes weight loss with its vigorous workout sessions.
By practicing Ashtanga Yoga on a regular basis, you can get rid of the stress and anxiety that leads to depression and dejection.
The breathing techniques involved in the practice sessions detoxify your body and rejuvenates it. In case you are suffering from hypertension, then it will help in lowering your blood pressure as well.
Once you start practicing the Ashtanga Yoga, you will be able to feel the difference within your body. It is a very important form of yoga as it relaxes your body, calms your mind and connects you to your higher self.