Ashtanga Yoga – What it is , History and Benefits

Ashtanga Yoga - What it is , History and Benefits

Ashtanga Yoga also known as Eight Limbed Yoga is a system of yoga outlined by the sage Vamana Rishi in ancient manuscript Yoga Korunta.

Ashtanga Yoga has eight stages/process and widely used for internal purification.

Let’s take a brief look into its history, process and advantages.


Ashtanga Yoga was recorded by sage Vamana Rishi and its text was imparted to  T. Krishnamacharya by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari. This happened during early 1900’s.

Krishnamacharya then passed his teachings on Ashtanga Yoga to his student Pattabhi Jois in 1927.

Pattabhi Jois popularized Ashtanga Yoga universally. He started teaching Ashtanga Yoga at his yoga shala, the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute from 1948.

Sage Patanjali outlined Ashantga Yoga in Yoga Stura’s.

Yoga Sutra is the collection 196 Indian Sutra’s which explains the theory and practice of Yoga.

Eight limbs:

  • Yama (abstinences),
  • Niyama (Self purification and Study),
  • Asana (yoga postures),
  • Pranayama (breath control),
  • Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses),
  • Dharana (concentration),
  • Dhyana (meditation) and
  • Samadhi (absorption)

According to Pattabhi Jois the first four limbs Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama are used for external cleansing purpose. The next four Pratyahara, Dharana , Dhyana is used for internal cleansing.


Yama’s are set of ethical rules (don’ts) in Hinduism. Yama was first mentioned in Rig Vedha.

Patanjali lists five yama’s and says when followed; a person will have perfect inner and outer emity with everyone (and everything).

The yama’s are

  • Ahimsa(Nonviolence towards humans, non-harming other living beings)
  • Satya(Truthfulness and non-falsehood)
  • Asteya(non-stealing)
  • Brahmacharya(chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint)
  • Aparigraha(non-avarice,non-possessiveness)


Niyama is the second compent in Patanjalis Yoga Path.

Patanjalis list five Niyama’s to help in personal growth. The niyama’s are

  1. Shaucha(clearness of mind, purity , speech and body)
  2. Santosha(Acceptance of others, acceptance of others circumstances to get past and change them, optimism for self)
  3. Tapas (austerity ,persistence, perseverance, asceticism  and self-discipline)
  4. Svadhyaya(study of self and self-reflection, introspection of self’s thoughts, speeches and actions)
  5. Ishvarapranidhana(contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, Unchanging Reality  and True Self,)

Patanjali says acceptance of others (as they are) will lead to state where inner sources of joy matters most when compared to material possession and external pleasures.


Asana is the third limb on the yoga path. Asana is a posture (or exeercise) that one can hold for a period of time. Asana’s are done without moving your body and staying relaxed.

Asana referred here doesn’t have any relation to Hatha Yoga Postures; it is usually done by sitting for a longer period of time with straight spine.


Pranayama is mostly considered as the processes of control of breathe. But Pranayama is the process of control of energy in the body by controlling the breath.

Once you learn how to control your energy, you could raise your consciousness by with withdrawing from outer sources.


It’s a combination of two Sanskrit words prati- (against) and āhāra (“bring near or fetch”).  In short Pratyahara is the interiorization of one’s thought and attention.

It is the process of withdrawal of senses that is retracting the sensory experience from external pleasure and external objects.

Pratyahara is not the process of closing your eyes to the sensory world; rather it’s a process which closes your mind to the sensory world.

Pratyahara will help you to stop controlled by the external world and enrich your attention to seek self knowledge and experience in the inner world.

Pratyahara starts the transition of yoga experience from the first four limbs by moving from the outer sphere of one’s body to the inner sphere of the spirit.


Dharana is the sixth limb described by Patanjali on Yoga path. In short Dharana means concentration, focus and one-pointedness of mind.

It is the process of holding your mind to particular inner state, topic of one’s mind. During the process the mind is fixed to an object, or mantra or state of mind or breathes / navel tip of the tongue.

During the process your mind fixed on single object or subject, without drifting or jumping from one point to another.


Dhyana is the seventh limb and it contemplates and reflects the stuffs we did on Dharana.

Dharana was the process of concentration on one object, Where as Dhyana is non-judgmental, non-presumptuous observation of that object.

According to Patanjali Dhyana is the process, where the mind is fixed on something, and then there is “a course of uniform modification of knowledge”


Samadhi is the meditative absorption in the Infinite.

According to Paramahansa Yogananda: Samadhi is a  “blissful super consciousness state in which a yogi perceives the identity of the individualized Soul and Cosmic Spirit”

There are two stages of Samadhi namely sabikalpa and nirbikalpa.

Sabikalpa samadhi is temporary and conditional. In Sabikalpa the ego will still be at subconscious level and can come back after the meditation.

Nirbikalpa samadhi is permanent and unconditional. After attaining Nirbikalpa samadhi you cannot fall; the ego is gone for good

According to Sharath Jois Ashtanga Yoga purifies your mind, body and soul. He also mentions that regular practice for longer period has transformed many people’s life from sickness to health.

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