Astanga literally means eight limbs.
Yoga is a timeless pragmatic science evolved over thousands of years dealing with the physical, moral, mental, and spiritual well being of human as a whole.
Astanga Yoga practiced in its correct sequential order, gradually leads the practicioner to rediscover their fullest potential on all levels of human consciousness.
This demanding practice requires considerable effort. It strengthens will and purifies the nervous system; the mind becomes lucid, clear and precise
There are eight component stages, collectively referred to as Astanga yoga (ashta, “eight” and anga “limb”), the eight-limbed path to mystical union.
The stages begin with a set of ethical codes and progress through physical postures, breathing exercises, and mental practices, culminating in the highest stage of absorption in the absolute.
- Yama. Five virtues, or restraints, that govern our relationships with others and the world:
- ahimsa (noninjury),
- safya (truthfulness),
- asfeya (nonstealing),
- brahmacharya (Godlike conduct),
- aparigraha (nonclinging)
- Niyama. Five observances of one’s own physical appearance, actions, words, and thoughts that govern our relationship with ourselves:
- shauca (purity or cleanliness),
- santosha (contentment),
- fapas (heat, burning desire for reunion with God),
- svadyaya (self-study or self-inquiry)
- isvara pranidhana (devotion or surrender to the Lord, “thy will be done”).
- Asana. Postures for creating firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence, and benevolence of spirit. The physical practice most familiar to Westerners as yoga.
- Pranayama. A set of breathing exercises designed to help the yogi master the life force.
- Pratyahara. Withdrawal of the senses, mind, and consciousness from the outside world; focus inward on the self.
- Dharana. Focused concentration. With the body tempered by asanas, the mind refined by the fire of pranayama, and the senses under control using pratyahara, the student reaches this sixth stage.
- Dhyana. Meditation. Withdrawing the consciousness into the soul.
- Samadhi. Ecstasy. Merging with the divine. Self-realization. One experiences consciousness, truth, and unutterable joy. One must experience samadhi in order to understand it, because it is beyond the mind.