« | Main | »

Ashtanga Yoga - The Eight-Fold Path


Ashta stands for eight and Anga stands for limbs or parts. As such, there are eight limbs of yoga. Yoga asks you to practice and experience for yourself a world you may not have otherwise known.

[Note: Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga is otherwise known as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, whereas the Eight-Fold path covers the umbrella over all Hatha yoga.]

1) Yama (universal virtues)

Ahimsa - Non-violence, non-injury. Have sensitivity with an open heart, which includes toward yourself and others. Coming from the ego causes injuries.

Satya - Non-lying, truthfulness. Have honesty with intention, for clarity in life.

Asteya -  Non-stealing, non-possessiveness. Trusting in what you have leads to growth. Taking posessions, emotions or time from others is fear-based which leads to regression.

Brahmacharya - Moving emotions and desires to God. Sexual energy is powerful; use it wisely while in the presence of another and also in the mind.

Aparigraha - Non-hoarding, non-attachment. Generosity is self-anchoring. It's ok to have things but don't let them have you.

2) Niyama (Personal disciplines)

Saucha - Cleanliness and purity. Keep the body, space, diet and relationships pure by looking for good in others, speaking truths, etc. so that the mind is unfragmented.

Santosha - Contentment. Practice equanimity by being content with your karma.

Tapas - Burning, disciplines. Physical alchemy. Physical impurities are burned out through asana and pranayama practice, when igniting our own power and sustaining that commitment to fuel the changes we intuitively know we need and want to make in our lives. The discipline removes unconscious patterns from the mind that haunt and limit.

Svadhyaya - Self-study, Self-understanding. Mental alchemy. Through self-observation and focus go on the journey of yoga in order to experience the unlying reason for living, by witnessing our bodies, minds and hearts.

Ishwara Pranidhana - Surrender. Spiritual alchemy. Do the best you can without concern for the end result, by understanding that you do not control everything and that there is a universal intelligence or force that directs you. By trusting in something bigger, our yoga practice softens and slowly erodes the ego of fear, judgment and separation. Moving beyond fear-based desires and compulsive thinking, beyond survival mode and comfort zones, we learn to trust something deeper. Get quiet and get in touch with the voice of the belly (gut) as it's awakened, as it paves its way to the breath deepening, mind and nervous system calming down, heart opening and vital force piercing through the spinal mystic channel (Sushumna).

3) Asana - Yoga postures that are part of a typical yoga practice.

4) Pranayama - Breath control.

5) Pratyahara - Control of the senses (taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing).

6) Dharana - Concentration.

7) Dhyana - Meditation.

8) Samadhi - Kaivalya is the goal of yoga, unity with the higher intelligence.

Chakorasana (Image © Yoga Robin®)