8 Limbs – The real Ashtanga !!!!

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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. Yamaethical practices

2. Niyamaconscious observances

3. Asanaphysical 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. Pratyharasensory practices, aims for the withdrawal of the mind from the senses.

6. Dharana concentration practices

7. Dhyanameditation

8. Samadhiliberation

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253 responses »

  1. I have never heard of the eight fold practice but I feel like if I incorporate this into my life and practices I can live a life filled with less anxieties and tensions. Obviously, as this is what they are meant to do. I feel like placing these important elements will allow a successful practice with my yoga and meditation practices now.

  2. I never really heard of this practice until I read about it right here. The 8 limbs of yoga seems like something that could prevent wars lol. It feels like something that many people should at least know about because it represents peace and prosperity, something that this society needs nowadays. It’s a way to open your mind, body and spirit. Practicing moral disciplines, breathing techniques and enlightenment are all paths to living life in bliss.

  3. This seems interesting and I think it will be useful to learn because it sort of breaks down the things people usually try to achieve by doing yoga so it seems more simple to work on them. I have to study the words a lot to memorize what each one means exactly.

  4. This is my first time hearing of the eight-fold path which sounds very interesting in the way that it is something that I want to start working on personally. Specifically the idea of controlling the body and one’s mind. As a college student and young adult, it is hard to keep a balanced lifestyle when there is always something going on. It was said that a lot of understanding has to be made within this path which makes sense in order to create the balance within your lifestyle. I am happy to know that practicing the IK is helping several parts of the eight-fold path which just gives a few more steps toward the balanced lifestyle I am working on.

  5. Personally, I have not been really in depth into knowing yoga because in high school we only did a couple of poses for a few weeks. I never really went in depth to find the benefits of yoga and how much it could actually help mentally just as much as physically. When I read this reading it helped me understand how important it is to know and do the Isha Kriya to help better myself. But also how refreshing the mind can feel, and it is so beneficial. Now that I try to practice the Isha Kriya regularly, having the 8-limbs in my head before I start helps me concentrate more easily understanding what I need to do and keep my breathing under control with a straight posture. I understood as the 8-limbs being a system to lead in self-realization and self-development, in the sense of creating balances with reality and peace. I understood it as a system because with not taking into consideration one of the 8 limbs the goal of being balanced in the mind and body is thrown off.

  6. This is my first time really being introduced into yoga. Due to that, reading this post was a little confusing to me because I had no prior knowledge of the ideologies that are encompassed in yoga. So I looked up and read the previous post that was mentioned about niyama. This helped to broaden my understanding of Ashtanga and made me realize that all of the ideas followed in yoga focus on personal development in order to connect with your mind, spirit, and body. I noticed that with my Isha Kriya practices, I was able to identify what steps in the Ashtanga I was using. I realized focusing on my breathing and repeating the mantra “I am not the body, I am not even the mind” embodied Pranayama and Pratyhara. I hope that we will continue to explore the eight fold path in class so that I can further my understanding of yoga and its ideas. I also will try to incorporate the Ashtanga into my meditation and other yoga practices in order to deepen my self-realization and awareness.

  7. Reading through the 8 fold practice I felt a sense of familiarity. I realize that even though this is my first time learning about them in a formal way, I’ve learned about them before. There is a cartoon that goes by Avatar: The Last Air Bender , and while the plot is irrelevant here, the story is about a young monk. In an episode he meets with a teacher who teaches him the 8 ways to find spiritual awakening and though he called them by different names and simplified everything I still find a connection between the two.

  8. Upon first reading, I had a hard time understanding the list and how they have an effect on the practice. After re-reading and visiting the “Chart: 8 Limbs of Yoga” from your February 3, 2014 post (1), I now better understand the meaning behind it. Though I have never encountered the Eight-Fold path before, many of its practices have taken shape in my life. I can see how each of the levels are important, and why encountering each level one at a time can be very beneficial to overall self-realization.
    Starting from the first and second step, I find it very compelling that these two practices set the foundation for the rest of the list. Without having both an ethical and observational base for the practice is very important. Without these aspects, especially including non-harming and self-study, yoga would almost be impossible to practice. With these, I believe it is much more beneficial to embark on the journey because a person is more willing and receptive to improving their connection of body and mind through yoga. I also believe that without these a person would have a lot of distractions in their attempt to practice.
    The third step, Asana, was not a surprise to me after enjoying a few classes with you. I have found many more tension releasing poses upon taking this course, and am very grateful for what they have done for stress and anxiety release. I also was excited to see Pranayama on the list, as I know how much breath control can affect the balance of emotions. This step has also significantly aided my anxiety.
    However, the one on the list that stood out most to my personal yoga experiences most was Pratyahara, especially within home practices of Isha Kriya (IK). I have found that I have had a harder time withdrawing my mind from my senses while practicing IK at home rather than in the classroom. I believe being unable to achieve this step is what was strongly affecting my ability to reach Dharana or the concentration practices. I have begun to find ways to aid these issues within my withdrawal from my senses through the use of headphones and lack of lighting. Now I am beginning to try to work towards Dharana, and am hoping that my continuous practice will guide me there and forward towards my state of one-ness.

    “Chart: 8 Limbs of Yoga” https://omlinkblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/chart-8-limbs-of-yoga/

    • This is a well written essay! Know that for most of us reaching the 6-8 stages of Ashtanga takes many years of serious practice. I expect everyone this semester will full experience #1-4. Please don’t put unnecessary pressure on your practice, just stay on the Path and witness your progress, Namaste

  9. The eight fold practices is a new and unfamiliar concept to me, although, I feel that its ideals would help me to lead a more balanced and peaceful life. The eight fold practices acts like a scale that shows the healthy balance that should exist between mind and body in order to become a centered individual and I can’t wait to make a conscious effort to put these principles into practice.

  10. I honestly have never actually heard of these 8 limb yoga poses until now. It kind of sound complicated to remember all of these names. But if they help the mind, body, and spirit mentally physically and emotionally then sign me up. I want to be able to be successful at these 8 limbs of yoga.

  11. I’ve never heard of Ashtanga, the eight-fold path before, but I can see it benefiting my mental and emotional health, counterbalancing my self awareness and my spiritual practices. I often try to lose myself in my physical body, but I’ve never achieve the level I want because my standards may be too high. I know meditation with Isha Kriya, will help me achieve self-realization, development, and my own discipline. I’m excited to learn more about the eight-fold path and go through all the steps, one at a time.
    Melenie Warner

  12. After reading this, it does make sense that threw understanding what the Ashtanga are. we can better understand them. It would also seem that they all share a similar them control or at least honest observation of one mind. It is a very spiritual motivated sense fo control. something that we require no real greater understanding of the universe just the willingness to try

  13. My knowledge of yoga/meditation has most definitely expanded not only from my yoga class at SUNY Purchase College, but as well as that within my own dorm. Each and every article or video we were given on different forms of yoga/meditation for the goal of reaching relaxation (along with that on the background of yoga/meditation and the science behind it), has enhanced my knowledge and admiration for yoga. After I was reading through the 8 different limbs of yoga/meditation for the perfect practice of using awareness, focus and consciousness as methods to align one’s self with cognitive comprehension, I knew from that moment onward that yoga/meditation is more than meets the eye.

  14. I am learning each time more and more about how helpful and life changing yoga can be. Its a way of keeping inner peace in such a chaotic world. The 8 limbs incorporate the idea of how everything connects such as breathing and concentration. By successfully completing each limb we can reach full concentration and liberation. Reading this passage made me realize that anyone can seek aid for self discovery and just help overall through yoga. The 8 limbs will help me to focus and deepen my self awareness and I will use them while practicing the Isha Kriya. This will not be an easy task but I am willing to practice and better my overall wellness.

  15. I have heard of the term “eight-fold path” before and I know of the process and goals of spiritual enlightenment, but I did not know what the eight folds were. I have not heard of of Ashtanga before. It does make sense to me that the eight folds would connect to one another to create balance. It is also interesting that there is a process and order to practices for spiritual development.

  16. I hadn’t heard of the 8 fold path prior to reading this post. The very specific order is something that I find quite challenging and intimidating. The practices of Yama and Niyama are something that I personally make an effort to do, though reading this reminded me how vital it is to readily practice both as much as possible. Upon further self reflection I realized that being back in school has disrupted my yoga routine. Practicing the IK four days a week has helped me reinstall some self-discipline in regards to self-care and my practice. As I’ve been sick with the flu this week, I’ve struggled to maintain focus, but taking the time to practice has brought some clarity. The mind body connection is one of the most appealing parts of yoga to me and this week I definitely have seen its benefits.

  17. It is curious to think that the path to self-development can be narrowed down to a specific set of practices. As with everything, I maintain my position of skepticism, of how completely these eight things make up the balance of mind and body; regardless I will be keeping these tenets in mind as I move forward with my yoga practices, because at the very least they can’t hurt.

  18. My Uncle is a devout Buddhist so I heard about the eight fold path when I was little, but never really knew what it meant. Reading even just the definitions of each of the limb was very interesting. I like how each of the eight limbs are a part of life that can be developed and worked on, instead of just straight up rules for living i.e. The Ten Commandments. I think this leaves room for more spiritual and personal growth than just telling someone what they should and should not do. I am excited to work on each of these eight limbs and grow spiritually.

  19. The Ashtanga path is one applicable to all aspects of life,as all eight folds of it are truly present in every part of our lives. From the Yama we develop a true sense of morality and how we translate that sense through our life choices. Niyama builds upon the Yama in that it allows us to discern responsibly what our choices mean to the world around us and its inhabitants, whether they may affect others positively or negatively, immediately or passively, and ultimately develop a greater sense of how actions are processed in this world. The Asana, Pranayama, Pratyhara and Dharana remind us that without the harmonious unity of body and mind, we are gravely inhibited. Once we are able to engage in meditation as the Dhyana guides us, we reach the liberation promised in Samadhi, a goal some one may only dream of achieving.

  20. It is interesting to see how this path is broken down. In my mind, which seems a curious thing to say, Pratyhara, Dharana and Dhyana would seem to be one step. I would have thought that Pratyhara and Dharana were both aspects of Dhyana, but I can now see how those two are also aspects of Asana and Pranayama. Furthermore, without Pranayama you cannot pursue Pratyhara or Dharana. I do hope this line of reasoning is making sense. It is amazing how each step seems to stand alone yet they are all so intimately linked. I hope that Samadhi will be part of my journey and I wonder when one knows that one has achieved Samadhi. On either end of this list (Yama and Samadhi seem to be the “bookends”), are two things that I feel are judged by others. Is that the case? Who decides if you have been liberated? Will you just know? Is it possible that there are moments of self-realization without actually achieving liberation in its fullness – sort of like seeing dappled sunlight through a tree canopy? Can you have glimpses?

    -Genevieve

    • Yes little glimpses are the way that most experience and offer encouragement to continue. For some samadhi is experienced only in death, in fact the funeral pyre is called the Samadhi and the commemorative grave site is called Samadhi, others attribute advanced years of practice yielding Samadhi. Namaste

  21. First of all the first two most are definately essential to achieving the latter five. Ethical practices are done to promote a balanced and calm mind so that one may meditate. Secondly, mindfulness is part of Dhyana(or as the buddhists call it Jhana). The control of breath is used in hinduism to balance energy. Gautama Buddha takes a more scientific approach; it focuses the mind so that one may achieve nibbana. The asanas are most interesting. One cannot meditate if one is distracted by physical pain, which the asanas address. The idea of withdrawing from the senses is the ultimate goal of buddhism.

  22. I have head of the eight fold path previously when learning about Buddha and his practices. The first, Yama, ethical practice, sounds like a large piece to lifestyle change. Living the way that you wish to live. Niyama, conscious observance, is also very important for lifestyle change. This would direct us to where we want to go, by allowing us to see what it is that needs to be focused on within. Asana is an important physical practice and can help with bad posture and back pain. Pranayama is also an important physical aspect of the practice, it helps with breath control. Someone who often has panic attacks or other setbacks that affect breathing can benefit from this practice. Pratyhara is the separation of the body and mind. I believe this is where mind over matter may come from. When someone becomes advanced in the practice they may be able to separate themselves from physical pain, this was something done by Buddhist monks during war. There is one famous photograph of a monk sitting in the street on fire, but yet does not look like he is in pain. Dharana is the part of the practice in which concentration is the center. When we sit and meditate we only want to focus on our mantra and our breathing and not anything else. Dhyana goes hand and hand with this practice. Dhyana is meditation and is very importation in the journey of becoming self aware. Samadhi is the last of the practice, this is liberation. This is the separation between the outside world and who you truly are.

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