Ashtanga Yoga: eight steps to enlightenment

17 Jul 2012, 12:28
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This type of yoga was firstly mentioned in Ancient Indian texts of “Yoga Sutra”. The essence of Ashtanga yoga lies in the passage about the eight stages of the spiritual path.  In translation from Sanskrit this word means "eight bases".  A leading practitioner and theorist of Ashtanga, the ancient Indian philosopher Patanjali, in his authoritative treatise "Yoga Sutra" developed the idea of ​​the eight stages.

taoist yoga

Taoist yoga


In this work he firstly explains how to explore your human qualities. This is what every person should achieve in the end of the spiritual path. It`s important to find yourself and understand your spiritual nature. Pantanjali described all the possible difficulties . During all this steps it is crucial to develop your body (asana), consciousness (pranajama) and your mind (meditation).


First four steps teach us how to cope with your emotions and use body effectively. We improve our personality and work on the inner world in order to be able to pass the next stages where we will get the ability to achieve the highest degree of awareness.



It is the first stage of Ashtanga Yoga which represents the so called ethical rules of social behaviour. To some extent, these laws can be compared with the precepts of Christianity. For example, here are the first five Yama: Ahimsa means non-violence, Satya involves truthfulness, Asteyya calls not to steal, Brahmacharya ― for abstinence, Aparigraha ― not to profiteering.



In contrast to the yama which governs our relationship with other people, the second stage ― niyama ― affects the scope of self-discipline and spirituality. There are five niyamas: saucam means purity, external and spiritual Samtosha encourages you to be satisfied with what you posess, Tapas implies religious fervor, Swadhyay means study of inner world, and the last one - Ishvara Pranidhana is the recognition of a single God.



You already know yoga Asana - positions in yoga which can help to develop a body and to improve concentration and endurance.



The fourth stage of ashtanga is responsible for control of vital energy, or pranayama. This is a special breathing technique, by which yogis may stay in difficult asanas for a long time. Pranayama heals and rejuvenates the body and prolong life.



At the fifth stage we learn to distracted ourselves from the outer life in order to see a real miracle ― the inner one. By focusing on internal processes, people can see attitudes that are often became a barrier for internal growth.



Instead of peering on our internal world during pratyahara we learn to concentrate on one of its sides in dharana. It is important to stop the flow of thought and focus on breathing, sound or image.



We learn to meditate at this stage. This is a condition where the mind is calm and serene, it does not have to create new ideas and just drifting.



The final stage of ashtanga is enlightenment. In this state, we merge with the world, go beyond the limits of our nature and experience unity with the universe. This is a feeling of unlimited freedom, bliss and happiness.

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  • Ryan Kidman

    The eight limbs work together: The first five steps — yama, niyama asana, pranayama, and pratyahara — are the preliminaries of yoga and build the foundation for spiritual life. They are concerned with the body and the brain. The last three, which would not be possible without the previous steps, are concerned with reconditioning the mind. They help the yogi to attain enlightenment or the full realization of oneness with Spirit. Enlightenment lasts forever, while a flat tummy can disappear with a week of binging. The American Lama Surya Das explains his view on Awakening the Buddha Within Eight Steps to Enlightenment.

    23 May 2014 in 08:45
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