8 Limbs – The real Ashtanga !!!!


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


166 responses »

  1. What I took most from this reading on the 8 Limbs to self realization was the importance of balance. Every step is necessary in maintaining a healthy body, mind, and soul, and it important not to focus too much energy on only one step. Simply becoming aware of these 8 steps has helped me realize my strong and weak points in regards to achieving a strong self. The two areas I hope to find growth in throughout this semester are Asana and Pranayama. I believe that possessing strength in these more physical steps will make achieving the other limbs less difficult. I also appreciated that this passage brought up the appropriation of certain terms used in yoga and meditation. I think it’s important to learn the origins of some the everyday terms and trends that we tend to use casually without knowing their truer meaning.

    Isha Kriya Exercise:

    I went through this meditation on these dates (each time right before bed):

    Thursday February 9
    Sunday February 12
    Monday February 13
    Tuesday February 14

    I did the first two meditations on the floor in my room, but I switched to sitting on my bed with my back against the wall for my last two practices which helped with the strain on my back a lot. I have found that meditating before bed helps me fall asleep much faster because my head is clear as opposed to swarming with stresses from my day. I am planning to try meditating in the morning to see how it will affect how I go about my day. I still struggle with the breathing because I do have nasal congestion, but I find if I breathe slowly it becomes easier.

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