Over 3,000 years, ago, the practice of Yoga had originated in India. Yoga had branched out to different sub-disciplines that are being practiced up to this day. This form of discipline is concentrating on the mind and body healing and one sub-discipline that is widely practiced today is Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga literally means 8-limbed yoga and another common name for it is Raja Yoga.
Eight limbed yoga or Ashtanga yoga is derived from the ideals of Pattanjali that the purification comes from the 8 spiritual practices or the eight limbs. The first four limbs are Yama, Asana, Niyama and Pranayama. These first four limbs are correctable and are practices for the body. Yama means morality, Asana is posture, Niyama is for the personal observance while Pranayama is the control of breathing. The four remaining limbs are practices for internal or the spirituality and they are Pratyahara, Dhyana, Dharana and Samadhi. Pratyahara is the control of senses, Dhyana is the divine meditation, Dharana, concentration of inner awareness and Samadhi is the divine unity.
The Yama and Niyama are practices that will help us deal with the people surrounding us and what our attitudes should be towards them. Yama is our attitude towards others while Niyama is our attitude towards our self.
The eight-limbed yoga is not possible to practice without focusing first on the Asanas. We must first improve the state of our body to make it strong enough to proceed with the other practices of Ashtanga Yoga. In order to achieve this, Asanas are practiced with 2 Yoga principles known as Vinyasa and Tristhana.
Vinyasa is a principle of Yoga where you are to practice your breathing with movement to cleanse yourself. With every movement it must be accompanied by breathing. One movement, one breathing. This way, you get purified as toxins are brought out of the body. Combine this with Asanas and the toxins are secreted through our sweat.
Tristhana is the union of Posture, Dristhi or looking place and the breathing technique. These 3 are essential for Yoga. Posture aids in detoxification, prolonged breathing technique is purifying the person’s nervous system while Dristhi helps in stabilizing the mind. Dristhi or the looking place is the point that you focus your attention to. You can focus your attention to your nose, navel, between your eyebrows, thumb, or feet. By focusing on one point, practicing breathing and keeping the right posture will alter your state of mind into a more relaxed and deep state. Once you are in that concentration state, you will then be able to practice the dharana and the dhyana.
Once the eight-limbed yoga is practiced completely, the purification of the mind and body is complete as well as the spirit. This will then make your mind control the poisons that surround our spirits such as our desire, greed, envy, sloth, anger and delusion.
The benefits of Ashtanga Yoga or eight-limbed yoga are extensive. It can improve your blood circulation and keeps your body strong yet light. Your mind would be calmer than ever before and you don’t easily get irritated.