The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga

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In my previous blog, I explained the best-known yoga styles and my own style, Ashtanga Yoga. If you haven’t read this blog yet, I recommend you do so first, via the link below:

Yoga Teacher Training

During my Yoga Teacher training, I first heard about the eight limbs. It’s all described in Sanskrit and can come across as quite “confusing” for a first time. My first thoughts were; how can I remember all this, let alone start putting it into practice.

In this blog, I will take you into the world of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra`s and try to explain the eight steps as best I can.

The word Ashtanga means eight-limbed. About two thousand years ago, Patanjali described the Eight Limbs of Yoga in the Yoga Sutra(or easier said the Golden Rules of Yoga). He did this through eight steps, think of it as a kind of guidelines, how we “should” act in everyday life. The physical Asthanga Yoga, incidentally, was brought to the West by Patthabi Jois and is based on the Yoga Sutra`s of Patanjali.

The steps in the eightfold path are as follows:

1. Yama (social disicpline).
2. Niyama (self-discipline).
3. Asana (physical exercises).
4. Pranayama (breathing exercises).
5. Pratyahara (isolation of the senses, turning inward).
6. Dharana (concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation).
8. Samadhi (surrender).

What are yamas and niyamas?

These two steps are the first two parts of the eightfold path and can be thought of as ethnic principles or “life rules”, with the yamas focusing on how you relate to the outside world and the niyamas focusing on yourself.

The five yamas are; non-violent living, not stealing, being honest, self-control and desire. These are based on positive behavior toward others, while the niyamas help you connect more with yourself. Consider purity (good nutrition), contentment, self-discipline, self-study and finally surrender (to God).

The third step are the asana`s; perhaps the most famous part of the eightfold path. In fact, asana is Sanskrit for the postures you practice with yoga. So you see, within Ashtanga Yoga, the asana┬┤s are only a small part of the overall picture. That is also something that has always attracted me to Ashtanga Yoga, it is much more than just the physical part, that is also how I experience it.

The asana`s are meant to focus your attention on yourself; the fact that they make you fit is actually a positive side effect. The asana`s release a certain energy, which causes both your body, and mind to be connected. Sounds perhaps all a bit spiritual, but in a nutshell, it comes down to a positive effect on your daily life, you feel more grounded, this allows you to handle tension and stress better and you experience more peace in the day to day.

In my next blog, I will dive deeper into the last five steps of the eightfold path, hopefully you will read along then ­čśŐ. If you have any questions for now, don’t forget to ask them via the comments below or via my contact form, using the link below:

Until then, hug


Ashtanga Yoga, Eightfold Path

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