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             Ashtanga Yoga (Eight Limbs Of Yoga)

Some time we refer yoga as the ashan or posture or physical exercise. but that asana and physical exercise are only a part of yoga which give strength to our body and makes us  free from many diseases .Maharishi Patanjali define yoga in his yoga shutra as follows
            योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:
          yogah citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ
 which means "Yoga is the inhibition (nirodhaḥ) of the "waves" or "disturbance" (vṛtti) of the "mind" or "consciousness” or “memory,” (citta)".Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra as "Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis)."

In patanjali yoga shutra maharashi patanjali discribe eight limbs of yoga

Eight components or Limbs of yoga

In Patanjali yoga shutra there are eight limbs or aspects of yoga

1. Yamas

Yama is the first of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in the yoga sutras. It is also sometimes called “the five restraints” because it describes . Yamas are ethical rules in meny religions like  Hinduism , Buddhism and Jainism and can be thought of as moral imperatives. Maharishi Patanjali listed The five yamas in Patanjali in Yogasutra 
  1. Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings
  2. Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood
  3. Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing
  4. Brahmacārya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint
  5. Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice,non-possessiveness
Patanjali,  states how and why each of the above self restraints help in the personal growth of an individual. 

2. Niyama

Niyama is the second limb of the spiritual path as outlined by the ancient sage Patanjali in his yoga sutras The second Limbs of Patanjali's Yoga path is called niyama, which includes habits, behaviors  the niyamas are
  1. Saucha: purity, clearness of mind, speech and body
  2. Santoṣa: satisfaction ,contentment, acceptance of others,  optimism for self
  3. Tapas: persistence, perseverance
  4. Svadhyaya: study of Vedas and other knowledgeable books, study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self's thoughts, speeches and actions
  5. Isvarapraṇidhana: contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, True Self)

As with the Yamas, Patanjali explains how and why each of the above Niyamas help in the personal growth of an individual

3. Asana

Asana is the physical practice of yoga, which is also commonly known as the yoga postures. Yet, asana is not just a simple exercise. It is a physical medium through which we can keep the mind calm and balanced.Patanjali begins discussion of Asana (आसन, posture) by defining it  as follows
                  स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥४६॥

An asana is what is steady and pleasant.
Asana is thus a posture that one can hold for a period of time, staying relaxed, steady, comfortable and motionless. Patanjali does not list any specific asana, except the suggestion, "posture one can hold with comfort and motionlessness".  The posture that causes pain or restlessness is not a yogic posture. Other secondary texts studying Patanjali's sutra state that one requirement of correct posture is to keep breast, neck and head erect (proper spinal posture)
yoga scholars developed, described and commented on numerous postures. Padmasana (lotus), Veerasana (heroic), Bhadrasana (decent)
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes the technique of 84 asanas, stating four of these as most important: Padmasana (lotus), Bhadrasana (decent), Sinhasana (lion), and Siddhasana (accomplished).

according to some text lord shiva discribed 84 lakh ashan

4. Praṇayama

Prana is the life force, the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers, for us to survive. It is said that life force energy flows through thousands of subtle energy channels called the ‘Nadis’ (energy channels) and energy centers (junctions of those Nadis) called ‘Chakras’. It is very important that a good quantity and quality of prana flows through the Nadis and chakras as it determines one’s state of mind Praṇayama is made out of two Sanskrit words praṇa (प्राण, breath)  and ayama (आयाम, restraining, extending, stretching)‘Prana’ refers to the universal life force and ‘Ayama’ means to regulate or lengthen. Pranayam is a yogic way of breathing to increase our prana.After a desired posture has been achieved, the next limb of yoga, praṇayama, which is the practice of consciously regulating breath (inhalation and exhalation) This is done in several ways, inhaling and then suspending exhalation for a period, exhaling and then suspending inhalation for a period, slowing the inhalation and exhalation, consciously changing the time/length of breath (deep, short breathing)

5. Pratyahara

Pratyahara is a combination of two Sanskrit words prati- (the prefix प्रति-, "towards") and ahara (आहार, "bring near")
Pratyahara is bringing near one's awareness and one's thoughts to within. It is a process of withdrawing one's thoughts from external objects, things, person, situation. It is turning one's attention to one's true Self, one's inner world, experiencing and examining self. It is a step of self extraction and abstraction. Pratyahara is not consciously closing one's eyes to the sensory world, it is consciously closing one's mind processes to the sensory world. Pratyahara empowers one to stop being controlled by the external world, and take one's attention to seek self-knowledge and experience the freedom innate in one's inner world

6. Dharaṇa

Dharana (Sanskrit: धारणा) means concentration, introspective focus 
Dharana as the sixth limb of yoga, is holding one's mind onto a particular inner state, subject or topic of one's mind. The mind (not sensory organ) is fixed on a mantra, or one's breath or any part of body, or an object one wants to observe,  Fixing the mind means one-pointed focus, without drifting of mind, and without jumping from one topic to another.

7. Dhyana

Dhyana (Sanskrit: ध्यान) simply known as meditation literally means "profound contemplation"
Dhyana is contemplating, reflecting on whatever Dharana has focused on. If in the sixth limb of yoga one focused on a personal deity, Dhyana is its contemplation. Dhyana is uninterrupted train of thought, current of cognition, flow of awareness.
Dhyana is integrally related to Dharana, one leads to other. Dharana is a state of mind, Dhyana the process of mind. Dhyana is distinct from Dharana in that the meditator becomes actively engaged with its focus. Patanjali defines contemplation (Dhyana) as the mind process, where the mind is fixed on something, and then there is "a course of uniform modification of knowledge".  Dhyana is the yoga state when there is only the "stream of continuous thought about the object, uninterrupted by other thoughts of different kind for the same object"; Dharana, states is focussed on one object, but aware of its many aspects and ideas about the same object. 

8. Samadhi

Samadhi (Sanskrit: समाधि) literally means "putting together, joining, combining with, union, harmonious whole, trance"
Samadhi is oneness with the subject of meditation. There is no distinction, during the eighth limb of yoga, between the actor of meditation, the act of meditation and the subject of meditation. Samadhi is that spiritual state when one's mind is so absorbed in whatever it is contemplating on, that the mind loses the sense of its own identity. The thinker, the thought process and the thought fuse with the subject of thought. There is only oneness, samadhi.

yoga is a group of physicalmental, and spiritual practices or disciplines. Yoga has been studied and may be recommended to promote relaxation, reduce stress and improve some medical conditions . In today's age yoga is adopted as holistic health care. There are many yoga school in India. 

Know more about yoga

ankush chauhan blog 


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