Ashtanga Yoga: The 8 Principles For Internal Purification

Ashtanga is a sanskrit term that means “having eight limbs of yoga or principles which further means a type of yoga based on eight principles and consisting of a series of poses executed in swift succession, combined with deep, controlled breathing. These eight steps are the path of internal purification that lead to discovery of the Universal of Supreme Self.

Trataka Meditation: Ancient Yoga Practise For Mental Health

Ashtanga yoga is Patanjali’s classification of classical yoga, as set out in his Yoga Sutras. {Patanjali was a sage in Hinduism, thought to be the author of a number of Sanskrit works. The greatest of these are the Yoga Sutras, a classical yoga text}. Further these eight limbs form a sequence from the outer to the inner. Postures, important in modern yoga, form one limb of Patanjali’s scheme; he states only that they must be steady and comfortable. He defined the ashtanga yoga eight limbs as:

Ashtanga Yoga: The 8 Principles For Internal Purification
  • Yama (abstinences) – Firstly Yamas are ethical rules in Hinduism and can be thought of as moral imperatives (the “don’ts”). Patanjali, in Book 2, states how and why each of the below given self-restraints help in an individual’s personal growth. The five yamas listed by Patanjali in Yoga Sutra 2.30 are: Satya (truthfulness), Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (non-stealing), Aparigraha (non-collecting) and Brahmacharya (fidelity or celibacy).
  • Niyama (observances) – Secondly it includes virtuous habits and observances (the “dos”). Sadhana Pada Verse 32 lists the niyamas as: Saucha (cleanliness), Santosa (contentment), Tapas (self-discipline), Svadhaya (self-study) and Iswara Pranidhana (surrender to God). As with the Yamas, Patanjali explains how and why each of the Niyamas help in personal growth.
  • Asana (yoga postures) – Thirdly Asana is a posture that one can hold for a period of time, staying relaxed, steady, comfortable and motionless. Patanjali does not list any specific asana, except the terse suggestion, “posture one can hold with comfort and motionlessness”. They become overall perfect over time by relaxation of effort with meditation on the infinite. This combination and practice stops the quivering of body. Any posture that causes pain or restlessness is not a yogic posture.
  • Pranayama (breath control) – Fourthly after a desired posture has been achieved, the practice of consciously regulating the breath. This is done in several ways, such as by inhaling and then suspending exhalation for a period, exhaling and then suspending inhalation for a period, by slowing the inhalation and exhalation, or by consciously changing the timing and length of the breath (deep, short breathing).
  • Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) – Pratyahara is drawing within one’s awareness. It is a process of retracting the sensory experience from external objects. It is a step of self extraction and abstraction. Pratyahara is not consciously closing one’s eyes to the sensory world, it is consciously closing one’s mind processes to the sensory world. Pratyahara empowers one to stop being control by the external world, fetch one’s attention to seek self-knowledge and experience the freedom innate in one’s inner world.
  • Dharana (concentration) – Holding one’s mind onto a particular inner state, subject or topic of one’s mind. Fixing the mind means one-pointed focus, without drifting of mind, and without jumping from one topic to another.
  • Dhyana (meditation) – Dhyana is contemplating, reflecting on whatever Dharana has been focus on. Dhyana is integrally related to Dharana, one leads to other. Dharana is a state of mind, Dhyana the process of mind. Patanjali defines contemplation (Dhyana) as the mind process, where the mind is fix on something. And then there is “a course of uniform modification of knowledge”. The yoga state when there is only the stream of continuous thought about the object. Uninterrupted by other thoughts of different kind for the same object.
  • Samadhi (absorption) – Lastly it literally means “putting together, joining, combining with, union, harmonious whole, trance”. Samadhi is that spiritual state when one’s mind is so absorb in whatever it is contemplating on. That the mind loses the sense of its own identity. The thinker, the thought process and the thought fuse with the subject of thought. There is only oneness.

Information Source Reference 1 & 2

Leave a Reply