Ashtanga Yoga is one of the eight limbs of yoga as described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. The word “ashtanga” means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit, and refers to the eight practices or stages that lead to the ultimate goal of yoga, which is the realization of one’s true self.
The eight limbs of yoga are:
- Yama: The first limb involves ethical guidelines and moral restraints, such as non-violence, truthfulness, and non-attachment.
- Niyama: The second limb involves self-discipline and spiritual observances, such as cleanliness, contentment, and self-study.
- Asana: The third limb involves physical postures, which are designed to help practitioners purify and strengthen the body in preparation for meditation.
- Pranayama: The fourth limb involves breath control, which helps to purify the mind and energize the body.
- Pratyahara: The fifth limb involves sense withdrawal, or the ability to turn one’s attention inward and detach from external stimuli.
- Dharana: The sixth limb involves concentration, or the ability to focus the mind on a single object or thought.
- Dhyana: The seventh limb involves meditation, or the ability to sustain a state of concentration on the object of meditation.
- Samadhi: The eighth and final limb involves enlightenment, or the ultimate realization of the true nature of the self.