Ashtanga Yoga: Patanjali’s Eight Limbs
Like Ganga, the divine wisdom of Yoga also originated from Shiva, and then bifurcated into different streams giving birth to distinct forms of yoga. One stream dedicated to Sage Patanjali who advocated simple teachings standing on the pillars of eight limbs.
He modified yoga in common parlance by authoring 196 aphorisms (Sanskrit Sutras). Ashtanga is a Sanskrit word where ‘Ashta’ means eight and ‘Anga’ means limbs. He formulated refined ethics for the beginners to make him suitable to start his spiritual journey to the path of Self-realization.
In Bhagwad Gita, Sri Krishna says, “The distraction of mind from the goal and unending desires creeping in mind is the biggest obstacle in self-realization.” The first two limbs revolve around purity in body & thought. The higher limbs culminate in deep meditation & absorption of mind (Samadhi).
The divine journey of yoga starts with wheels of eight limbs of purification
Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga
As per mythology, it was the wish of Lord Vishnu to propagate the teachings of yoga for common man. Ashtanga yoga teachers training course dispel all the misconception connected with controlling of mind. His eight ethics are:
1 – Yama:
There are some impurities in human which obstruct its path to higher goals of spirituality. By practicing and watching our habits, you can go to the path of inner purity. Our inner disciplines reflect our personality in outer society, as you are also an entity in the system. The perfect control or discipline helps us to develop for being a good yoga practitioner.
The five Yama (Pure Conduct) are:
- Ahimsa (non-violence): Avoid violence of any type (action, thought or dee).
- Sathya (truthfulness): Stick to truth alone whatever be the circumstances.
- Asteya (non-stealing): What to speak of action never thought of stealing.
- Brahmacharya (celibacy): Controlled married life with no flame of lust.
- Aparigrahya (non-accumulation): Never accumulate undesirable objects.
2 – Niyam (Self-Discipline):
You are the master or slave of your own senses. By practice and regular watch, you control your habits and thereby thoughts.
- Shoucha (Cleanliness): More than body, your thoughts must be free from wayward wanderings, which distract you from noble path of yoga.
- Santosha (Contentment): Be satisfied whatever you have in your possessions. A satisfied hermit is better than unsatisfied king.
- Tapas (Determination): Where there is a will, there is a way. Austerity in practice brings fruitful results and strengthens your focus and determination.
- Svadhyaya (Self-study): Make a daily analysis of your own doings, what you have done right or wrong. You will be better connected with yourself.
- Ishvara Pranidhana (Total Surrender): Turn your heart & spirit to your karma (action) and leave the rest to self-illuminating light for the result.
3 – Asana:
It focuses on sitting comfortable position for extended period. Learn any pose to mold your body fit for yogic breathing. You feel relaxed muscles, energetic movement and sharp bent of body action in basic asana series.
These are basic steps to higher awareness with the right coordination of mind, body. Asana are basic for Hatha Yoga teachers training course. Mind energy can be sharpened by controlling the physical reactions inside our body.
4 – Pranayam:
It is sailing boat which crosses the vast ocean of Yoga. Pranayama is composed of two words—‘Prana’ means subtle life force and ‘Yama’ means control. It is more than a breathing control. The subtle life force exists in all living beings which is more subtle than oxygen or air. It means controlling the life force and thus controlling the body and mind.
5 – Pratayahara (Pulling out Senses):
Our five senses are always go outside and love to indulge in sense satisfaction. In outer world, you remained distracted due to sensory observation. For self-realization, you need complete pulling out of senses and focus on single focused goal of self-realization. Even a single sense, like perception of beautiful face in outer world is enough to create stumbling block in your ultimate goal. Control your senses to control your mind.
6 – Dharana (Perception of Object):
Either, we are living in past or contemplating on future. Seldom, we live in the present moment. It also created distraction to attain single-focus concentration. Like a aimless creature, we wonder here and there, with no fixed ultimate goal. The single-focused concentration makes us to move nearer to the self-realization goal.
7 – Dhyana (Meditation):
Meditation is one-pointed concentration for a prolonged period of time. There are various levels of meditation, which can be classified as passive & dynamic. The mind is stilled by non-activity of thought process in the passive type. In dynamic form, the mind is supplied with such divine thoughts that subconscious mind crosses all barriers to reach super-conscious state.
You elevate yourself from all the dimensions of mundane life. The purity of life reaches at its zenith. You go into the stage of out of body experience and know your true identity. You cultivate your relationship with self-illuminating light. You can experience more by undergoing yoga & meditation course.
8 – Samadhi (Self-Absorption):
As you enter into this supreme state of awareness (Samadhi), you lose your ego and false identity. There is union of your limited conscience with infinite conscience. It is the highest state of meditation when you enter into Samadhi (by successfully passing through all eight limbs of yoga. You feel ecstasy and highest bliss as your conscience united with supreme conscience.
It is the super consciousness state when there is union of self-consciousness to the super consciousness which brings extreme bliss and joy which can’t be described in words. It is the realization of Brahama (supreme soul), and is the union of Lord Shiva and Parvati. It all happens when kundalini reaches to sahasrara chakra after piercing all three knots. We get the oneness with the universal consciousness.