“Astanga” literally means ‘eight limbs’ and was created by the great sage Patanjali. He was the first to coin a systematized approach to yoga through the Yoga Sutras, one of the foundational texts of yoga. These eight ‘limbs’ are an ordered set of steps, which support each other and work together to guide practitioner towards the pathway of yoga -the divine union of body mind and soul,leading towards a state of self realization and liberation Patanjali describes the 8 limbs of Astanga yoga as:
- Yama (abstinences): Yama helps to keep social discipline.
- Niyama (Observances): Niyama helps to keep self Discipline.
- Asana (Physical postures): The asana focus on a daily physical practice to strengthen, purify and energize the body, eventually leading to a steady, controlled mind and a healthy nervous system. Daily practice of asana one acquires a strong, handsome and radiant personality. It works from the bone level to the exterior cells level. More than 84 asanas (postures) and Surya Namaskara (Sun salutation) will be taught starting from basic postures to more advanced posture. Sun salutation is part of Astanga yoga. It has powerful ability to lubricate the entire spine and maintain the healthy functioning of the endocrines system.
- Pranayama ( breathing control and expanding ): The words Praṇayama refers to lengthen, control and regulate the breath. Pranayama is practiced to develop mental, physical and spiritual strength. Practice o f Pranayamas also helps in attaining mastery over the senses. Consequently, the aspirant who has attained mastery over the senses becomes qualified for Samadhi (state of super consciousness).
- Pratyahara(Withdrawal of sensory organs):The fifth step of Astanga yoga is pratyahara related to the senses and senses- objects. By attening perfection of pratyahara one acquires mastery over all objects of enjoyment, whether they are worldly or spiritual and whether they are enjoyed by gross or subtle senses.
- Dharana(concentration): Dharana is final step of preparation for meditation. Practice of Dharana helpes to focus their mind easily in meditation so that they can take joy and benefit of meditation.
- Dhyana(Meditation): Meditation means to drop everything which is in one’s memory and to come to state where only consciousness remains, where only awareness remains. When only consciousness remains without an object, that state is called meditation. Through different techniques a moment will come when the body seems to have disappeared and thoughts have also disappeared. When everything has disappeared, that which is left behind is called meditation.
- Samadhi(Super-consciousness):Samadhi gives the meaning of solution. It means your internal and external problem will be solves by experiencing Samadhi. Samadhi is highest state of consciousness. This is the state mastery of the mind.