Today, we’ll talk about the origins of Ashtanga Yoga and the eight steps that make up this holistic yoga practice. This is an introductory article, where each of the steps can be explored in greater depth.

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Ashtanga Yoga was brought to the Western world by the revered sage Patanjali. Moreover, the term ‘Ashtanga’ in Sanskrit translates to ‘eight-limbed,’ referring to the eight steps that guide practitioners towards spiritual enlightenment and physical well-being.

The Eight Steps of Ashtanga Yoga

Understanding these steps is crucial, as collectively they form a complete yoga practice. Therefore, each step plays a vital role in harmonizing the body, mind and spirit.

To learn more, watch the video below from our Ayurveda Expert.

1. Yama

Yama represents ethical disciplines. It emphasizes non-violence (Ahimsa) in thoughts, words, and actions. So practitioners are encouraged to refrain from causing harm, fostering a mindset of compassion and kindness towards all beings.

2. Niyama

Niyama pertains to personal observances. It involves setting boundaries and adhering to a disciplined lifestyle. This includes regulating work hours, meal times, sleep schedules, and leisure activities. Niyama fosters individual discipline, both internally and externally, promoting balance and harmony.

3. Asana

Asana refers to physical postures. It involves maintaining a stable and comfortable posture, enabling practitioners to focus inwardly. Any movement performed during yoga practice falls under Asana, contributing to physical strength and flexibility.

4. Pranayama

Pranayama is the practice of breath control. ‘Prana’ means life force, and ‘ayama’ means control. Pranayama involves various breathing techniques that enhance the flow of vital energy (Prana) within the body. It is fundamental to sustaining life and maintaining overall health.

5. Pratyahara

The fifth of Ashtanga Yoga’s eight steps is Pratyahara, it signifies the withdrawal of the senses. It involves detaching the mind from external stimuli and turning inward. Thus, this step is essential for cultivating inner awareness and preparing for deeper states of meditation.

6. Dharana

Dharana is the practice of concentration. It involves focusing the mind on a single point, such as the heart or a specific external object. This step is crucial for developing a one-pointed focus, laying the foundation for meditation.

7. Dhyana

Dhyana means meditation. It is a state of uninterrupted flow of concentration. Just as a river merges with the sea, the practitioner’s consciousness merges with a higher state of awareness. In addition, Dhyana signifies a deep connection with the universal energy.

8. Samadhi

Samadhi is the ultimate state of spiritual absorption. It represents full consciousness, where the practitioner transcends the ego and experiences unity with the divine. Thus, Samadhi is the culmination of the Ashtanga Yoga practice, signifying spiritual enlightenment.

The Journey of Practice

Practicing Ashtanga Yoga involves a gradual and mindful journey through these eight steps. There is no rush. Therefore, each step should be embraced and mastered at one’s own pace.

Thus, understanding and practicing the eight steps of Ashtanga Yoga can lead to profound transformations, fostering physical health, mental clarity, and spiritual awakening.

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