For many, yoga is not just a way to exercise and unwind, it is also a way of life. There are many variations when it comes to the types of yoga that people practice and Ashtanga yoga is probably the most well-known one. Ashtanga literally translates as ‘eight limbs’ form in and represents the eight parts that combine to make Ashtanga.
Yama is the first limb of Ashtanga and focuses on setting the guidelines that a person needs to obtain balance, health, and well-being. This combines truthfulness, abstinence, and pacifism. A great respect is given to all life forms be they human or animal and violence and aggression is to be cast aside in favor of a caring and understanding character.
Niyama is the second limb and focuses on observances and purity. Niyamas help you reach a state of cleansing within your body, mind, and soul while helping you reach a level of contentment and acceptance of those around you.
Asana is the third limb and refers to the postures and movements that make up yoga. Each type of yoga has it’s own Asanas and helps you build fluidity and strength within your body and movements.
Pranayama is the fourth limb and focuses on breath control. By controlling your breathing you can reach a state of relaxation and calmness in both body and mind. Deep, rhythmic breathing can help you to focus on what you hope to achieve from your session.
Pratyahara is the fifth limb and focuses on abstinence and withdrawal of the senses. By senses, this means the five senses of the human body and mind, Taste, Touch, Sight, Sound, and smell. It is believed that the senses can cause sensory overload and prevent the practitioner from reaching a state of contemplation and relaxation.
Dharana is the sixth limb of Ashtanga and is focussed on concentration. Dharana is the practice of thinking of one thing and one thing only, clearing your mind of all other intrusive thoughts and keeping that one thought as your main pivot. This helps practitioners work towards keeping a clear mind and contemplating just one thing at a time.
Dhyana is the seventh limb of Ashtanga and refers to meditation. Meditation is when you focus all of your energy of reaching a state of relaxation and almost an unconscious state of mind. Meditation is one of the most utilized aspects of yoga for creating a calm and relaxed body and mind.
Samadhi is the eighth and final limb of Ashtanga and focuses on contemplation. Samadhi is when the practitioner reaches a state of meditative concentration that allows the mind to become still. Once all eight stages have been perfected then Ashtanga yoga can be utilized to allow the practitioner to reach their full potential.