What is Ashtanga Yoga – How to do it and its Benefits
Yoga is the ancient form of exercise in India that helps you to keep fit mentally and physically. You can ward off a lot of diseases by doing yoga. It is now getting popular all over the world as more people are becoming aware of its large benefits. Yoga includes various poses or asanas, a few warm-up exercises to make you ready for the asanas, pranayama and also meditation. Pranayama is the breathing techniques and meditation helps you to relax. There are different types and forms of yoga and each benefits you its unique way. Ahtanga yoga is one such yoga that offers you a lot.
What is Ashtanga Yoga?
Ashtanga yoga is also known as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Ashta is a Sanskrit word, which means ‘eight’ and ‘Anga’ means limbs. So Ashtanga yoga means eight limbed yoga. Yoga has been in practice in India from more than 5000 years back. During those times it was practiced to get salvation or ‘Nirvana’. Most of the sages practice yoga. Ashtanga yoga is believed to be composed by one of the great sages of India, Patanjali. This yoga is mentioned in his book Patanjali Yoga Sutra. In this article we will discuss step by step process of this yoga, so that you can follow it and do it properly.
How to do Ashtanga Yoga Poses:
1. Yama: Yama is the first limb of Asahtanga Yoga. Many people think that yoga means a set of asanas and poses only. But this is not all. It also includes a disciplined lifestyle. One who does yoga also needs to follow a particular way of life to achieve the full benefits of Yoga.
- Yama means principles, values and morality. This is regarded as the first step towards Ashtagnga yoga.
- Yama is based on non violence or ‘Ahimsa’. This means that you have to stop any act of violence towards other fellow beings and living beings, both internal as well as external. One who practices this yoga must try to find truth in all aspects of life. You also must refrain from the temptation to steal (Asteya).
- Another important aspect of this yoga is that people practicing this yoga must follow the principle of Aparigah, wherein you must believe in non-possessiveness. So it is advised that all those who practice Ashatanga Yoga must follow Yama and thus lead a better life.
2. Niyama: This is the second limb which is based on personal disciplines. This controls the way in which you think, believe and behave in a situation.
- In this limb you have to follow Shoucha (purity). Here you have to be satisfied with whatever you have and do not lament for what you do not have. You must also have the power of endurance. Whatever situation you face, you must have the endurance to face it and think positively about it, as well as take truthful decision.
- Next you have to follow Swadhyaya, which means self-study.
- Last step of Niyama is that you must follow Eshwar Pranidhan. This means dedication. Whatever you do, you must do it with full dedication.
3. Asana: Asana is the most important limb of Ashtanga Yoga and also the most popular. Here you have to focus on the fitness of your body as well as your body posture. Asana includes a set of yoga poses that that makes your body, mind and soul to relax. They are classified into basic, intermediate and advanced asanas.
- Basic Ashtanga Yoga is for those who are new to yoga and is a set of warm up exercises or poses that are simple and easy.
- Intermediate asanas include some twists and mild backbends and is more advanced that the basic yoga asanas.
- Advanced yoga is more complicated and ideal for those who have mastered basic and intermediate yoga asanas.
4. Pranayama: This is the fourth step, which includes breathing exercises. Kapalbhati, Anulom-Vilom, Bhastriuka pranayama, Ujjayi pranayama etc are some types of pranayama. Basic steps of this yoga are:
- Sit on the ground cross legged and in a comfortable position and place your hands with palm down on your knees. Take a deep breath and then close your right nostrils with the thumb of your right hand. Inhale and exhale with your left nostril. Repeat this with your right nostril also.
- Now try to breath with both nostrils one by one. Inhale and exhale slowly and completely. If you have any breathing problem, you may consult your doctor before to practice it.
- In Anulom-vilom you have to you have to inhale with one nostril and exhale through the other nostril alternately.
5. Pratyahara: In this step you have to learn to control your senses instead of running away from them or suppressing them. You must be strong enough to face them and control them. This step is regarded as a step that helps you break away from rebirth.
6. Dharana: This stage of Ashtranga Yoga teaches you to concentrate on an object, place or individual. It is an important stage of mediation and includes many ways through which you can control your wandering thoughts and focus your mind on things that need your attention.
7. Dhyana: Dhyana means deep relaxation and you need years of practice to be a master in this asana. Dhyana mudra is as important as Dhyana. Here you touch the tips of your index finger and the thumb and place both the hands on your knees. In this stage you forget all that is happening around you and concentrate on the spiritual self.
8. Samadhi: This is the last and the 8th step in Ashtanga Yoga. This is the final position or apex point of one’s life. This stage is achieved by very few people and is a very difficult level. Samadhi is to be one with God. One who achieves this stage gets extreme happiness in merging with the divine power. Only yogis who have practiced for years together can master this art.