For so many living and following yoga in the west Ashtanga can mean so many things. It can be a name of a restaurant, a line of clothing or beauty product, a record label or a yoga style made famous by Madonna. Not sure if Madonna would want to steal Shri Patanjali’s thunder, but it is in fact our most famous sacred Father of Indian Classical Yoga who penned the list. The eight-fold path or Ashtanga encompasses the entire evolutionary process for this spiritual path. At the base of these guidelines are the Yama and Niyama, (listed in the two previous posts). Yama and Niyama comprise the basic, timeless, universal code for behavior and some important guidelines for daily living. The Yama and Niyama may lead one towards a balanced regimen for individual discipline. The first six practices are merely preparatory for the first goal of spiritual quest- Meditation. Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are purely mental and spiritual practices concerned with transformation.
Ashtanga, the eight-fold path, is a practical, workable system of self development that helps to control body and mind, and to live a balanced lifestyle: mentally, physically and emotionally. Through understanding the intricate connection between body and mind, what causes distractions and obstacles in life, comes a willingness to use these guidelines to achieve the balance of body and mind, eventually leading to self-realization. Success is measured by practicing each step orderly and do know the Isha Kriya will allow you embody 4-8, when completing 108 mandalas. We can use consciousness and awareness as terms in alignment with self-realization. Without further ado here are the infamous 8:
1. Yama– ethical practices
2. Niyama – conscious observances
3. Asana – physical postures designed to release mental tensions and stresses lodged in the physical body
4. Pranayama – the science of breath control to balance prana (life force) in the body, mind and emotions
5. Pratyhara – sensory practices, aims for the withdrawal of the mind from the senses.
6. Dharana – concentration practices
7. Dhyana – meditation
8. Samadhi – liberation