----- Scripture 2:29, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Ashtanga Yoga

A. PHILOSOPHY : The Eight Limbs of Patanjali

Ashtanga Yoga literally means Eight-Limbed Yoga, as is defined by sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

These Eight Limbs, when integrated and practiced over time, become the pathway for all human awareness and spiritual progress.

Yamas : The five codes of moral restraint

  • Ahimsa – non-violence in words, thoughts and actions towards all beings, including oneself

  • Satya – living by truth in words and deeds, and being pleasant in truth-telling

  • Asteya – not stealing; this applies not only to wealth and property, but to ideas and knowledge as well

  • Brahmacharya – maintaining celibacy or practicing sexual responsibility/restraint

  • Aparigraha – rejecting greed and gluttony, observing non-attachment and non-possessiveness towards all animate and inanimate beings

Niyamas : The five codes of self purification and enquiry

  • Saucha – observing purity and cleanliness, in body, mind, thoughts and emotions

  • Santosha – living with contentment and self acceptance

  • Tapas – steady practice and discipline towards self purification, the burning away of all toxins and negative feelings.

  • Svadhyaya – the practice of spiritual self study and enquiry

  • Ishwarapranidhana – devotion and surrender to the divine

Asana : Practicing physical control through the execution of postures

Pranayama : Practicing breath control through purification and regulation techniques

Pratyahara : Practicing sense control, gradually leading to the withdrawal of the senses

Dharana : Practicing deep concentration on an object or abstraction

Dhyana : Practicing meditation, whereby the object of concentration dissolves into consciousness

Samadhi : Arriving at the state of universal truth and liberation, also known as moksha


“Through practice of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, whereby impurities are eliminated, there arises enlightenment…”

----- Scripture 2:28, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

B. TRADITION AND PRACTICE : Krishna Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) – Mysore, India

In the late 1920s, the eminent yoga and Sanskrit scholar T. Krishnamacharya discovered a copy of the Yoga Korunta in the Calcutta University Library. This ancient text, compiled by sage Vamana, consisted of about 100 stanzas written on palm leaves. But it had been virtually destroyed by ants. Krishnamacharya, together with his young disciple Krishna Pattabhi Jois, set about transcribing what remained of the priceless manuscript. This included a detailed explanation of asanas (postures) with their individual benefits, the order or sequences in which they were to be performed, and movements that indicated how to transition from one posture to the next.

These are the vital components of the Ashtanga Yoga method as devised by K. Pattabhi Jois; as is traditionally taught at the KPJAYI in Mysore, south India and by authorized teachers around the world :

Vinyasa : The system that links the breath to the flowing movement between postures. For each movement, there is one breath taken. Practicing vinyasa ‘boils’, purifies and thins the blood. The heated blood then circulates freely around the joints, removing bodily pain. It also moves easily through the internal organs of the body, removing impurities and disease which are excreted through the sweat that the practice generates. The heat, or internal fire of vinyasa, is also known to increase human metabolism and lifespan.

Tristhana : The three points of attention or action – posture, breath and drishthi, or fixed point of gaze. When these elements are combined, purification takes place in the body, the nervous system and the mind. Yoga postures cleanse, strengthen and give flexibility to the body. Steady, regulated breathing purifies the nervous system. Focused application of drishthi, of which there are nine types in total, stabilizes the mind and all mental processes.

Bandhas : Two bandhas, or energy locks, are considered critical to the method : mulabandha (root lock) and uddiyanbandha (abdominal lock). These seal in and direct the flow of prana (vital energy) in the body, bringing about a feeling of lightness, strength and control.

The Six Poisons : In the Yoga Shastras, it is said that God dwells in the human spiritual heart in the form of light, but that this light is shadowed by six poisons : kama (desire), krodha (anger), moha (delusion), lobha (greed), matsarya (envy), and mada (sloth). When dedicated yoga practice is sustained over time, the heat generated from it burns away these poisons, and the pure light of ones inner nature shines forth.

Parampara and Traditional Learning : A Sanskrit word, parampara denotes the transmission of traditional knowledge from teacher to student. It is the basis of any lineage, where the guru (teacher) and shishya (disciple) are the links in a chain of instruction that has existed for thousands of years, and where knowledge is passed down through direct instruction as well as practical experience.

In ancient India, the guru-shishya relationship was one of sanctity and mutual commitment. The role of the teacher was to transfer knowledge in its purest form, with the noblest intention and purpose. The dharma, or duty, of the student was to respect and obey the guru, and to learn by diligence, effort and the surrender of personal ego.

*information source : www.sharathjois.com