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What is Ashtanga Yoga? Origin and Meaning of Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga is a type of yoga that may be familiar to many yoga practitioners. Let’s explore more about what Ashtanga yoga is, its origin, and its meaning!

1. Learn About Ashtanga Yoga

What is Ashtanga Yoga?

Ashtanga Yoga, also known as Patanjali Yoga or Raja Yoga, is the oldest and most renowned form of yoga in India. In the Sanskrit language, Ashtanga Yoga is understood as:

  • Asht: Eight
  • Anga: Limbs of the body

Hence, it is simple to understand that Ashtanga Yoga consists of eight objectives that this form aims to lead the human body towards.

What is Ashtanga Yoga?

Origin of Ashtanga Yoga

According to various recorded accounts, Ashtanga yoga originated from Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, a man who lived in a cave in the Himalayas, Manasarovar (Tibet) in the early 1900s. During this time, he developed over 700 yoga postures based on the ancient Yoga Korunta method.

Brahmachari had a student named Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who spent seven years studying with him in Tibet and acquired knowledge and principles of yoga. Krishnamacharya then returned to India and transmitted the yoga teachings of his master to the people.

Subsequently, Krishnamacharya had a disciple named Pattabhi Jois, who studied with him and contributed to the spread of Ashtanga yoga to future generations. It gradually became popular and became one of the most commonly practiced forms of yoga in the Western world.

2. The Significance of Ashtanga Yoga Practice

As mentioned earlier, Ashtanga yoga consists of eight objectives or meanings of the practice, specifically:

Yama (Control)

The first objective of Ashtanga yoga is to demand ethical and moral conduct from within individuals, which includes:

  • Satya: Living truthfully and sincerely.
  • Asteya: Not coveting or stealing what does not belong to oneself.
  • Brahmacharya: Moderation.
  • Aparigraha: Non-hoarding.

Niyama (Observances)

The observances in Ashtanga yoga are related to one’s inner self. When the mind is at peace, it can feel and experience each breath of the yoga practice. Therefore, Ashtanga yoga requires practitioners to:

  • Have a pure heart.
  • Maintain a calm, relaxed, and unburdened spirit.
  • Be passionate and enthusiastic.
  • Tapas: Practice discipline.
  • Svadhyaya: Self-study.
  • Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender to the divine.
Niyama (Observances)

Asana (Physical Postures)

Correct and precise Ashtanga yoga postures bring the following benefits to the practitioner’s body:

  • A flexible, agile, firm, and healthy body.
  • A relaxed, comfortable, stress-free mind.

Pranayama (Control of Breath)

Controlling the breath rhythm is one of the essential elements of yoga practice. Regular and rhythmic breathing helps you practice for a longer duration without exhaustion.

Pratyahara (Control of Senses)

When one’s inner emotions are not joyful and bright, all his actions in the world will be dull and gloomy.

Dharana (Concentration)

You must be able to keep your mind on the physical aspect of your practice, which demands mental concentration. Steadying the mind is essential.

Dhyana (Meditation)

When you maintain concentration for a more extended period, it will lead to meditation.

Samadhi (The Ultimate)

Finally, reaching the state of Samadhi, where everything becomes one. This is the ultimate goal of Ashtanga yoga.

3. What Are the Exercises in Ashtanga Yoga?

Ashtanga Vinyasa

Ashtanga Vinyasa is a precise and straightforward method that aims to generate internal heat and, subsequently, purify the body. This is achieved through yoga postures synchronized with deep, rhythmic breaths.

Ujjayi Pranayama Meditation

Ujjayi Pranayama is the foundational practice for Ashtanga Vinyasa. In this form of meditation, practitioners are required to control their breathing through their noses.

4. Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga offers numerous benefits to its practitioners, including:

  • Enhanced strength, flexibility, and endurance.
  • Improved concentration and mental clarity.
  • Stress reduction and emotional balance.
  • Detoxification and purification of the body.
  • Better posture and relief from physical ailments.

In summary, Ashtanga yoga is an ancient and profound form of yoga practice that offers a holistic approach to physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It is deeply rooted in Indian tradition and has gained recognition worldwide.

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