In Sanskrit, Ashtanga Yoga means "eight limbs," with Ashta meaning eight, and Anga meaning limbs. These eight limbs are meant to help a devotee t Ashtanga Yoga live a healthy life. One of the main intentions for this type of yoga is to help minimize strss and anxiety in one's life, and to strengthen our endurance. In Western Yoga circles, many people practice Power Yoga which is essentially a form which is modeled after traditional Ashtanga Yoga. There are eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga, which work in the following way:
The first limb is Asana, which is the discipline of performing Yoga exercises in order to better your spirit and your body. The second limb is Niyama, which is for taking control of your entire life by learning personal restraint. Niyama is a combination of joy, patience, self-study, purity and the love of god. The third limb is Yama, which involves enabling us to dwell on all the good in human behavior, and is comprised of non-violence, celibacy, truthfulness, staying clear of envy, avoiding jealousy and possessiveness, and resisting stealing. Pranayma is the word for controlled breathing, which is part of many branches of Yoga practice.
The fifth limb of Ashtanga Yoga is called Dharna, which is to aid in concentration on personal learning, in order to improve our understanding our of the overall scheme of life and our place within it. Dharna also involves forming long term goals and firm missions for our lives. The sixth limb is Pratyahara, which involves helping to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world so that our minds may focus. A focused mind is a haven for positive thoughts. The seventh limb of Ashtanga Yoga is Dhyana, which helps us concentrate on our mission and our long term goals through pursuing meditation. Finally, the eighth limb is Samadhi, which is the attainment of bliss and peace in addition to the ability to find our life mission and to strive continually to reach our personal enlightenment goal.
Ashtanga Yoga is a style of yoga which is practiced in stages. Ashtanga students only benefit if they progress and their own individual pace, achieving goals on their own time. Ashtanga Yoga begins with what is called Yoga Chikitsa, and involves detoxification of the body in order to build stamina and strength. There are seventy-five poses involved, which take around two hours to complete. The exercises begin with Surya Namaskar, which is the sun salutation, and follow with a series of different standing and sitting exercises, and inversion and relaxation exercises.
The second set of exercise in the series is called Nadi Shodana, which helps to build strength in the nervous system. The exercises in this series follow a similar sequence to what is practiced in the first series, but with the inclusion of several extra poses. The final set of exercises in this series is called Sthira Bhaga, which is Divine Permanence. This is the final and most advanced of all forms in the practice, and involves mastering the initial exercises beforehand.
Ashtanga Yoga is a lifetime passion which involves serious discipline and dedication, but it is well worth the effort involved if you want to reap the physical and emotional benefits it provides.
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