Definition: Ashtanga Yoga’s Concept was given by Maharishi Patanjali. In this Ashtanga Yoga, he has told about the 8 limbs of yoga. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. These 8 limbs are known as Ashtanga Yoga Of Patanjali, and if a person practices these Ashtanga Yoga then it also gets its physical and spiritual benefits too.
History Of Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga
In ancient times, more than 1800 yoga routes were established in India. Then, 3000 years ago, Maharishi Patanjali tried to bind the paths of all these yoga in the Yoga Sutras. Then he gathered these 1800 different types of yoga processes in more than 200+ yoga sutra and made them Ashtanga Yoga, which means 8 parts of Yoga. Since then, Maharishi Patanjali was considered to be the father of modern yoga.
He called them limbs because, in the way the parts of our body together give us strength, so by adopting Ashtanga Yoga, we achieve the ultimate goal.
Indeed, Ashtanga Yoga of Maharishi Patanjali depends on impurity. All kinds of tools have the same concept, to remove the inaccuracy. Where is the impurity? impurity is in our mind. Purification of that mind is the main purpose of Ashtanga Yoga. When the mind gets purified with Ashtanga Yoga, then the light of knowledge arises, in which we get self-realization and ultimate goal.
Maharishi Patanjali has also discussed Ashtanga Yoga in Sadhana texts (holy text of Hinduism) in which he has told about Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, which are the eight limbs of Yoga.
8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga by Maharishi Patanjali
Yama means binding itself with some regime and rules. As long as there is no rule in our life, our energy becomes scattered from our body.
Through Yama, we control the growth inside our body, and through the growth, we prevent the scattering of energy.
Under the process of controlling yourself through Yama, five types of Yama Rules have been explained by Maharishi Patanjali.
Ahinsha (Non-Violence): We should not hurt any creature in any way. It is also a type of violence to hurt or backbiting anyone. According to Maharishi Patanjali, when there is a reputation of non-violence, love is expanded inside us.
Satya (Truthfulness): Through our mind and senses, whatever we have seen, understood or heard, to tell it in the same way, is called the truth. Maharishi Patanjali says that if someone is truly in his life and gives blessings or curse to anyone according to his karma, then he or she receives blessings or curses of that person.
Astey (Thieveries): It is also a type of theft to take away the property of another by fraudulent means. Theft of government tax and bribe is also under this rule of Yama. Maharshi Patanjali says that all the gems are present in the life of a person who obeys this rule, the priceless treasure is hidden in the universe, it starts appearing in front of him.
Brahmacharya (Celibacy): This means that we should not do any such wrong thing with our body and mind by which our mind distracts from spirituality and we feel guilty. For this, if we stop the passage of our senses, then it comes under Brahmacharya. When Brahmacharya is followed in our lives, then the energy which is going to disperse through our senses stops and there is vigorousness within us.
Aparigraha (Renunciation): It means that we should not collect any kind of material for our self-interest, whether it is property or something else. When we follow the renunciation rule then there is no collection of any kind in our life, so that our mind becomes so pure that we can get complete information about ourselves.
So if we follow these five rules of Yama then the scarcity of energy from our senses stops and we can collect our inner energy.
Only those who follow the Yama Rules come in this aspect of Ashtanga Yoga. Yama means external discipline where Niyam means internal observation.
5 things have been described under the Niyama limb.
Saucha (Cleanliness): This means sanctity. Sanctity is of two types, external and internal. External sanctity includes bathing, keeping the food clean and fresh, keep the clothes clean etc and Purification of mind comes under internal sanctity. When we follow internal sanctity then we have the purity of consummation, the happiness of mind, purification of mind, the senses are in our control, and self-realization.
Santosh (Satisfaction): Due to internal purification, the wisdom that arises inside us and with that knowledge when it comes to us that we are doing a complete duty. But due to the dignified situation, we are not getting the full benefit of karma. We should also be satisfied in such a situation. Maharishi Patanjali says that there is no second happiness greater than satisfaction.
Tapa (Tenacity): To deal patiently with those conditions that come into our lives is come under tenacity. Fasting is also a kind of tenacity.
Swadhyay (Self Education): Self Education is knowing about yourself in what situation we are in and in what situation we have to move forward. Through Self Education, we rebuild our mental structure, we bring thoughts into the mind that he needs.
Ishwar Pranidhana (Dedication): To realize the divine consciousness, determining our actions on the basis of consciousness is called God’s Love.
Tenacity, Self Education, and God’s Love are also known by the name of Kriya Yoga.
There are some dimensions of our life and it is important to have balance in them. If there is no balance between them, then many diseases and distortions occur in our body. Here the dimensions are related to the body, life, and mind. The more stable and calm our body and life will remain the more stable our mind will be. Maharishi Patanjali felt these three things and told about Asana, Pranayama, and Pratyahara to balance Body, Life, and Mind.
We think that the hard postures we practice, which are also called Hatha Yoga, are the only postures. But in Ashtanga Yoga Maharishi Patanjali changed the concept of asana. He says that as long as we can sit quietly in a calm state, that is called asana (स्थिरसुखमासनम्), like in Padmasan, Sukhanasa etc.
Because it belongs to Rajyog and the highest priority is given to Chitta (Mind) in Rajyog. So to overcome the inaccuracy of the mind (Chitt), we have to settle down our body. So a condition is needed to stabilize the body and that condition is called asana.
Asana means that your ability to sit for a while in a stage. When you sit in a stage/asana then there should be a dull effort but your mind should be concentrated in Divine. When the asana starts to be proven and our mind starts concentrating on the divine than the power to bear the physical or mental conflict come inside us.
Our body is the center of 108 Pranas and when life force starts feeling insufficient then our life begins to weaken. And when the awakening of Pranas starts, then our life becomes very sophisticated with lots of Moral Values.
Pranayam is made up of 2 words; “Prana” and “Aayama”. “Prana” means “the energy inside us” and “Aayama” means “dimension”. Through the process of pranayama, we control life, organize them and operate them accordingly.
Maharishi Patanjali has explained the three parts of pranayama – external (Bahya Vritti), Interpersonal (Abhyantar Vritti) and pillar (Stambh Vritti).
External instinct – Exhalation of breath in a controlled motion.
Interpersonal instinct – Inhale breathe in a controlled motion.
Pillar instinct – To stop Prana.
When we follow these steps, the breath will be under our control. So in this way when our control over pranayama starts happening, Patanjali has told its 2 benefits.
1- The cover of ignorance on our consciousness starts to get distracted.
2- Our mind becomes capable of holding the body.
Through adversity, we gain control over our mind and senses. Our body has 11 senses (Indri), 5 knowledge (Gyan) senses, 5 Karma (Karm) senses, and 1 mind and all these senses function according to our mind.
By Pratyahar sadhana, we remove the senses and mind from their subjects and lead them towards our internal consciousness. So if we practice Pratyahara Sadhana then all of our senses will be in our control.
Those who have attained paramountcy on their minds and senses can become the officials of Dharana, Dhyan, and Samadhi.
In Pratyahara, we remove the senses from their subject and concentrate on our mind. Doing so leads to the awakening of our mental powers. In Dharana, we give these mental powers the right direction and concentrate them towards one goal.
Maharishi Patanjali says that concentrating your mind at any one point is called a Dharana. This point can be of 2 types external and internal.
External – Under it, you can focus your mental power on things like trees, Himalaya, statue etc.
Internal – Under it, you can concentrate your mental power in one of the body Chakra like Muladhara, Manipura etc.
When our perception seems to be mature, then it starts transforming into meditation. Meditation is a condition that is achieved by following other rules of Ashtanga Yoga. Your attitude should be constantly in meditation.
When the instinct of our mind which has been purified by the previous 6 stages of Ashtanga Yoga, and now our focus is constant on the targeted point, then that condition is called meditation. When this meditation is constantly tied to a rhythm, then it is known as Samadhi.
Samadhi (Trance State)
Where in the state of meditation, there is an inclusion of our target, body, and meditation process, at the same time, the existence of the body and meditation process in Samadhi ends and only the target remains.
That is when we concentrate Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi on a single target, we get the knowledge of that target. If we make the sun as our target, then we get the knowledge of the sun, if we make the universe as our target, then we get the knowledge of the universe. When such an awakening starts appearing inside us, then it is called power or greatness.