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Ashtanga means Eight Limbs where ashta = eight and anga = limbs.  Ashtanga is the Eight Limbed path of yoga.  

The eight limbs of yoga are prescribed to us by Patañjali in the ancient Yoga Sutras.  

The eight limbs which if perfectly followed consistently and for a long period of time (most likely lifetimes) will lead us to Samadhi and or Moksha (liberation).   It is considered a science to liberation or what in the west we call enlightenment. The Limbs are as follows;

  • YAMAS  These are five observances and behaviours which regulate how we behave to others

  • NIYAMAS These are the five commitments to ourselves and principles  that we should follow.

  • ASANA     this actually translated means comfortable seat.  The postures we make in practice are called asanas

  • PRĀNĀYĀMA     Control of pranayama through breathing techniques

  • PRATYĀHĀRA    Withdrawal of senses from objects

  • DHĀRAN           Intense concentration

  • DHYĀNA            Closest translation is meditation

  • SAMĀDHI          A difficult word to translate as few have experienced it.  Can be described as highest state of conciseness, liberation from samsara or karma.

The first four limbs are something that we can practice actively, i.e. they take place on an external level.  When the first four limbs are strong within the Sādhaka (spiritual seeker), eventually the other four gradually take place internally within him or herself.



following this system is meant to be a way to samadhi or moksha liberation 

If one is not following the eight limbs they are not practicing ashtanga yoga.  Asana alone, without consciousness and breath control is not yoga, it is no more than gymnastics.


Yamas and niyamas

I feel it is important to quickly name the yamas and niyamas.  They are the foundation to the practice and as Patanjali noted them as the first of the limbs it would appear to be the most important aspect.  In some ways they are the easiest to do of all the limbs, but to truly do them perfectly and consistently, maybe they are actually the hardest.  One who treats others with compassion and kindness is much more of a yogi than one who can either put his legs behind his head in some advanced asana, do some crazy breathing technique or can sit in padmasana with his eyes closed for two hours


  • AHIMSA                  Non violence

  • SATYA.                    Truthfulness

  • ASTEYA                   Non-stealing

  • BRAHMACHARYA  Celibacy

  • APARIGRAHA         Non-possesiveness or non-attatchment.


  • ​ŚAUCHA.                        Purity and cleanliness being maintained both internally and externally.

  • SANTOSHA.                   Contentment.

  • TAPAS                             Self disipline

  • SVĀDHYĀYA.                  Self-study.  This means both studying of the scriptures and study of the self.

  • ĪŚVARAPRANIDHĀNA   Devotion to God

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