Although this word has popularised yoga globally, it’s false usage by the Mysore School is enough to make Patanjali squirm!Yogasutra, written around 300 BC by Patanjali, is a collection of 192 sutras, and clearly defines and describes the yogic lifestyle.
Ashtanga, literally means Eight Limbs. It segregates the yogic lifestyle into eight distinct parts as follows:
1. Yama – your touchpoints and relationship with external world and society
2. Niyama – relating with your own self
3. Asana– postures, the most ubiquitous definition of yoga
4. Pranayama – expansion of prana
5. Pratyahara – turning inwards
6.Dharana – concentration
7.Dhyan – meditation
8. Samadhi – final freedom
For a more nuanced understanding, we will explore these eight parts in our subsequent posts. For now, it is adequate to understand that the first five of these are called bahiranga (external) yoga and the final three are called antarang (internal) yoga. The sequence signifies that yoga is a journey from simplifying your personal and societal engagements to improving your body, mind, and breath, which will finally lead to Samadhi. The samadhi is not a mere word but is equivalent to liberation, complete wisdom regarding your own self.
For most yoga practitioners, Ashtanga yoga means a primary or secondary series of asanas, popularised by the Mysore school. But the true essence of ashtanga lies in Patanjali’s Yogasutra mentioned above. The importance of Asana is to lead you towards a healthy and fully functional physical body. Further, it leads you towards a stillness of mind.
‘Yoga chittavrittinirodham’, states the Yogasutra- Yoga is the stopping of all fluctuations of the mind. It encourages you to experience the silence of the mind through the silence of the body.
You can explore more about Yoga in other posts.