Eight limbs of Yoga – A beginner’s guide to Ashtanga Yoga

In our modern age civilization, the ancient practice of Yoga for toning body and mind has attracted the attention of celebrities and general masses alike. It’s benefits have acknowledged by all. But contrary to popular belief, Yoga is not simply a set of some physical postures and breathing exercises. With reference to the context of “Yoga Practices”, we can take the meaning of the term “Yoga” as Discipline of eight types or the Ashtanga Yoga of the great Sage Patanjali. Here we present a beginner’s guide for Ashtanga Yoga. The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are:

  1. Yama – code of conduct, and self-restraint.
  2. Niyama – religious observances, commitments to Duties, practices, studies and devotion.
  3. Asana – Proper sitting posture for Pranayama. Also, integration of mind and body through prescribed Body postures, their sequences and physical activities.

    woman practicing yoga backbend
    Asanas or Physical Postures – Photo by Elly Fairytale on Pexels.com
  4. Pranayama – regulation of breath leading to integration of mind and body.
  5. Pratyahara – abstraction of the senses, withdrawal of the senses of perception from their objects. Healthy Introvertedness or taking interest in the basic Enquiries of the Self.
  6. Dharana – concentration, Focusing or one-pointedness of mind. Helps to increase attention time span.

    silhouette of man sitting on grass field at daytime
    Dharana or Concentration – Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com
  7. Dhyana – meditation (quietening the Mind that leads to samadhi)
  8. Samadhi – the quiet state of blissful awareness, super conscious state, a very high level of mind for a definite period of time.

Taking into account some of the main basic physical and mental requirements for the pursuit of healthy body and mind, as well as ultimately Spiritual Growth, “Ashtanga Yoga” can be considered as one of the best available complete package to incorporate the preparatory disciplines of the pursuit in oneself.

If meticulously followed, they help to prepare and maintain the body and senses fit for attending to regular classes (or listen to the lectures regularly and systematically) and do “Sravanam” to the optimum potential of one’s capacity. They also help to purify one’s mind to a considerable extent and facilitate a favorable mind-set to develop concentration and enhance the attention span of the listener. Long term practice of pranayama could also tone up one’s intellect and help to develop logical thinking that in turn is very essential for doubts clearance through contemplation or “mananam”.

General Pre-Requisites for Yoga Practices of Ashtanga Yoga

  1. Practice Asana and Pranayama before Food or 3 to 4 hrs after any solid food
  2. No nose block (if present, perform carefully “Stationary jogging” for 3 to 5 minutes before starting yoga practices to generate some heat in the body)

How to get maximum benefits from Ashtanga Yoga

INCREASE CONSUMING water, pure fruit juices, and positive prana foods. In Yoga, food is classified into three categories based on their effect on body and mind. They are:

  1. Sattvic – Positive energy giving foods. Food that is pure, natural. revitalizing, and prepared through non-violence. So essentially green, vegetarian fresh fruits and vegetables.
  2. Rajasik – Food causing mental restlessness, they act as mental stimulants. They lie somewhere in the neutral food zone. Examples include coffee and tea.
  3. Tamasik – Food that causes dullness of mind, or stress to physical organs. The food that is stale also comes under this category. Examples include non-veg items, alcohol, onion, and garlic.

As much as possible, AVOID non-veg including egg preparations, alcohol, tobacco and negative energy foods.

General tips to get the best benefits from Ashtanga Yoga

  1. Commitment and regularity – To include in the daily routine
  2. Carrying out the Yoga Practices in the morning
  3. Diet management (must for weight reduction, relief from any specific ailments and for early on set of the general benefits of yoga).

How do I practice Yoga – Asanas and Pranayam

In one of my previous posts, I shared some great channels I found on YouTube for practicing Yoga, specifically Asanas(postures) and pranayam(breathing techniques). Please visit this link:

The Best YouTube Yoga channels – curated list of my top favorites

For those of you who understand Hindi, I have an excellent recommendation on YouTube, the YouTube channel of Dr. Manoj Yogacharya. Do visit!

Here is one of his videos on Kapalbhati:

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