Ashtanga – Eight Limbs Of Yog

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ashtanga

Ashtanga Yog or Yoga is the actual and most effective yoga sutra. These days when someone talks about yoga, people take it as some poses which increase strength and flexibility. Most of us know yoga to be some fancy or difficult poses. However, true YOG is all about the balance of mind and body. Yog is a sequence of progress starting from the outer self to turning inwards. Each state needs to be steady and comfortable.

Why Ashtanga is the final answer

We are a confluence of Purusha (us), the witness consciousness, and Prakriti the cognitive environment which interacts with the senses. Purusha by nature is activity less and Prakriti is agile. When both interact, it creates ripples of desires, ego, attachments, experiences, and emotional flux. Ashtanga is a ladder to climb as we progress in life from undiscerning to subtle.


The eight limbs

Yama

The first limb deals with rules as set by Vedas towards improving moral imperatives. This limb is a starting point for self-improvement and also leads to a stable society. Bhagwat Geeta emphasizes ‘Yama’ as essential for every human being.

Five Yama essentials are:

Ahimsa – Nonviolence
Satya – Truthfulness
Asteya – Non-stealing
Brahmacharya – Energy regulation
Aparigraha – Non-possessiveness

Niyama

The second limb is to have a self-disciplined and spiritual life. Once we achieve Yama, we need to step up to regulate our own lives.

There are five essential Niyama which are:

Shaucha – clearness of mind, speech, and body
Santosha – the feeling of content
Tapas – perseverance, and persistence
Svadhyaya – study to improve knowledge about Purusha and Prakriti
Ishvarapranidhana – accept the existence of supreme power

Asana

The third limb simply means holding a posture steady, comfortable, and motionless. Various scriptures gave different reasons and along with them many asanas. However, we know that there are 72000 Nadis and 114 chakras in the human body. Asana revolves around regulating energies in chakras enabling us to realize our higher self.

Pranayama

The fourth limb involves us realizing Purusha within us through breath. It involves controlling our breath and feeling the presence of our inner self. If we reach this limb after achieving satisfactory evolution in the previous three, it opens several channels for inward journey. Thus our internal journey begins from here. One needs to understand that just breathing as a physical movement does not mean pranayama.

Pratyahara

The fifth limb teaches us to control stimuli as received from the external world. Our five senses are designed to make us move outwards. These senses introduce the Purusha with Prakriti. However, Pratyahara is a process of retracting the sensory experience from the external world. Here the path to the last three limbs is set making it move from outside to inside.

Dharana

The sixth limb requires us to have an introspective focus and concentration. Pratyahara releases us from external distractions and Dharana relieves us from internal distractions. There are various ways to practice Dharana such as being fixed on a mantra, breath, idea, etc. One can also classify it as a type of mindful meditation.

Dhayana

The seventh limb is simply reaching a level of uninterrupted flow of concentration. In a meditative state, Dharna and Dhayana may look similar but are different, Dhayana being a higher stage. Where Dharana means single-point focus, Dhayana means No-point focus. Here we do not need any mantra or other means to concentrate. This is a state where we have a free flow of energy within our inside channels leading to our higher self.

Samadhi

The eighth and last limb or stage is a stage where we are able to understand Purusha and accept it as the subtlest element. It is believed that the definition of Samadhi has been given out by those who haven’t reached there. This is because the one who reaches Samadhi has the realization of Supreme power. From that state, there is no meaning left to step down for any interaction with Prakriti. This is the final stage of peace and enlightenment. It cannot be possessed, bought, or explained. One can only experience it. A popular belief is that in this state Kundalini is activated to its highest levels to make our chakras realize the ‘Supreme Power’ and merges within that.

‘JitYog’ is an initiative of H2FCARE in order to improve both mental health and physical health using knowledge from our ancient literature. The aim here is to use the knowledge to improve self and society.

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