Ashtanga yoga is a style of yoga that was popularized by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the 20th century. The word “ashtanga” is derived from the Sanskrit words “ashta,” meaning eight, and “anga,” meaning limbs. The practice of ashtanga yoga consists of eight limbs, which are:
- Yama: The first limb, which refers to the ethical principles and moral guidelines for living a harmonious and peaceful life.
- Niyama: The second limb, which involves self-discipline and self-study to cultivate positive habits and attitudes.
- Asana: The third limb, which comprises physical postures to strengthen the body and improve flexibility and balance.
- Pranayama: The fourth limb, which involves breathing exercises to improve lung capacity and control the breath.
- Pratyahara: The fifth limb, which refers to the withdrawal of the senses from external distractions and turning the focus inward.
- Dharana: The sixth limb, which involves concentration and focusing the mind on a single point.
- Dhyana: The seventh limb, which is meditation, involves maintaining a state of calm awareness and focus.
- Samadhi: The eighth and final limb, which is a state of enlightenment, where the practitioner experiences a sense of unity and oneness with the universe.
Ashtanga yoga is often characterized by a fast-paced, physically challenging series of postures, known as the Ashtanga Vinyasa sequence, which is performed in a specific order and is synchronized with the breath. The practice emphasizes the importance of regular and consistent practice, with the aim of creating a sense of union between the body, mind, and spirit.