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Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali

October 30, 2011  by: prithiviputra  Points: 12   Category: Health  Earning $0.35   Views: 665

Patanjali, the founder of the Yoga system of Indian philosophy mentions eight limbs of Yoga and they are collectively called as Ashtanga Yoga.


Patanjali was the founder of Yoga system of Indian philosophy. There are six system of Indian philosophy, namely, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa. The Nyaya school was founded by sage Gautama, the Vaiseshika school by Kanada, the Sankhya system by sage Kapila, the Yoga system by Patanjali, the Purva Mimamsa by Jaimini and the Uttara Mimamsa had different founders in Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva.

Among all the systems of Indian philosophy, the Yoga school stands apart in the sense that it speaks a lot about the control of the mind and the state of spiritual absorption or Samadhi. Patanjali mentions eight limbs of Yoga. These are called by the Ashtanga Yoga. The terms 'astha' and 'anga' in Sanskrit have the meanings of 'eight' and 'limbs' respectively. The eight limbs of Yoga are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranamaya, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

Each of these eight limbs contributes to the control of the mind and the body in its own way. The first limb called 'yama' is about internal purity or the purity of the thoughts. Thoughts grow faster than grass and hence they have to be controlled by all means. Patangali says that thoughts have to be cut as and when they occur in order to maintain internal purity. 'Niyama' represents external purity or the purity of the body. Human body should be kept free of impurities. Man has to practice the methods that build up external or bodily purity.

'Asana' refers to Yoga posture or pose. There are many yoga postures that have to be practiced with the help and the guidance of a 'guru' or a teacher. Asanas or postures should never be practiced without the proper guidance of a Yoga teacher. Each asana contributes towards the general health of the body and the mind. You will have to perform the postures on a mat or yoga sheets to get good results. Asanas keep the body in a fine shape. 'Pranayama' refers to the regulation of the breathing process by practicing inhaling and exhaling just by concentrating on them. In other words mind should concentrate only on the processes of inhalation and exhalation all through. This kind of practice will go a long way in controlling the mind from wandering.

'Pratyahara' refers to the withdrawal of the sense organs from wandering hither and thither. It is natural for the senses to wander on their own accord and they have to be pulled and controlled in order to strengthen self-control. The process of self-control is dealt by the practice of 'pratyahara'. Mind should be trained to concentrate on a particular object or a thing so that other sense organs like the eye, the skin, the nose, the ear and the tongue are withdrawn from sense objects. This is what is meant by pratyahara.

'Dharana' is a Yogic step by which the mind is allowed to concentrate on a particular form or an object so that thoughts do not enter into the mind. Even if the thoughts enter the mind, they should be kept at bay by the process of 'dharana'. A state of mind has to be reached wherein the object gets fixed firmly in your mind. This is what dharana is all about. Next to dharana is 'dhyana'. It is said that 'dhyana' is the most important limb of yoga practice. It is called as meditation. This is the reason why meditation is taught at all levels of education to concentrate better and effectively. The duration of meditation can be increased gradually by the yoga practitioner. He or she can start with a small duration and go on increasing it gradually in the course of time. Sages in the past have attained great powers by the power of meditation. Meditation keeps the mind calm and quiet. It helps the mind to gain mastery over itself.

The final limb of Yoga practice is called as 'Samadhi'. It is the state of spiritual absorption. It is the state in which the Yogi remains absorbed in his true self. He is totally unshaken and gets firmly established in the thought of the Spirit. He remains in the spiritual world until he comes back to mundane existence. Great yogis like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and his disciple Swami Vivekananda often went into the state of Samadhi during their life time. The main objective of the state of spiritual absorption is to become one with the supreme spirit which is the cause of the production of this universe.

Patanjali says that a true Yogi has to practice all the eight limbs of Yoga mentioned above in order to attain perfection in the art of control of the mind. Each of the first seven limbs of Yoga leads to the final state of Samadhi or spiritual absorption. The system of Yoga is gaining a lot of popularity in the western countries particularly in the United States. More and more young men and women have turned to Yoga to keep their mind and body in good shape.


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