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Ashtanga = The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Updated: Jan 24

Greetings and Namaste ~

Thanks for choosing to read my blog.

First, let's unpack this Sanskrit word, Ashtanga, (which can be spelled different ways).

Ashta means Eight / Anga means Intertwining Facets or Limbs

In addition, I think it's important to remember that the word Yoga means Union.

The essential purpose of yoga is the integration of all the layers of life.

By practicing yoga, we unite our Mind/Body/Spirit and the surrounding Environment,

in other words uniting or integrating every aspect of our being with everything.

"By embracing Ashtanga Yoga, the Eight-Faceted Path,

Intuitive Wisdom dawns and reveals our inner radiance." ~ Nischala Joy Devi

Patanjali was a Hindu mystic, sage, author of the Yoga Sutras, and the creator of the system of yoga we know as Ashtanga or The Eight Limbs of Yoga. He lived between the 2nd century BCE and the 4th century CE. He is known as the Father of Modern Yoga.

Patanjali equated the eight aspects of yoga to the limbs of a tree. This analogy is wise as we (the practitioner) unfold, blossom, and grow with the regular practices of yoga as a tree blossoms and grows when provided the right conditions.

When we practice the eight limbs of yoga, we create the "right conditions" for ourselves and benefit physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically, and spiritually.

The list and brief descriptions below, are not at all sufficient to understand them fully, but for the sake of brevity and a place to begin they are as follows:

Yama - Ethical Practices / Rules of Social Behavior

Niyama - Rules of Conduct / Personal Behaviors

Asana - Physical Postures / Poses

Pranayama - Breath Control / (Prana = Life Force or Vital Energy)

Pratyahara - Sensory Withdrawal / Tuning Inward

Dharana - Concentration / Single Pointed Focus

Dhyana - Uninterrupted Concentration / Meditation

Samadhi - A state of pure being, unbounded awareness / The State of Union - Yoga

Unlike many subjects of study, the aspects of yoga are not exactly linear. As we study and practice yoga, we experience, understand, and refine the aspects of Ashtanga within ourselves. They both build upon each other and they simultaneously evolve.

I've been studying yoga consistently since 2012 and the more I learn, the more I recognize the profundity of this practice. I am humbled and grateful for the many aspects or gifts of the sacred practice of yoga as I have been held, comforted, and healed as well as grown stronger and more flexible in my body, mind, and spirit.

I hope you've found this interesting and /or informative. I'll dive deeper into the limbs / practices in future blogs.

Until next time,

May you meet life, as it is, with an open mind and an open heart.

May you move through the world with awareness, acceptance, care and compassion

for yourself and all beings.

Humbly, Leanne


"The Path of the Yoga Sutras - A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga",

by Nicholai Bachman

"Ashtanga Yoga - The Practice Manual - An Illustrated Guide to Personal Practice"

by David Swenson

"Light on Yoga" by B.K.S. Iyengar

"The Secret Power of Yoga - A Woman's Guide to the Heart & Spirit of the Yoga Sutras" by Nischala Joy Devi

"The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga" by Deepak Chopra, M.D. & David Simon, M.D.

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