WHAT DOES ASHTANGA MEAN?

The word Astanga literally means eight limbs, as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, an early systematized structural framework for yoga practice. Patanjali can be seen as a pioneering psychotherapist who described in detail the functioning of the human mind and showed a logical path to liberate it. According to Patanjali, the path of yoga consists of eight steps. The steps are Yama (how we relate to others), Niyama (commitments to ourselves), Asana (posture), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (sense control), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption). The practice of the third limb, the physical yoga postures (‘asana’), stabilizes body and sense organs, and leads to a steady mind. It is usually seen as the foundation and gateway for the practice and development of the other steps. Practicing Astanga ultimately means practicing all of the eight limbs.

WHAT ARE YAMAS AND NIYAMAS?

The Yamas and Niyamas are observances, behaviors and commitments of yoga students, which offer a common-sense guidelines that lead towards the state of yoga and a happier life. The five Yamas are the observances and behaviors which regulate how we relate to others. They are Ahimsa (Non-violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-stealing), Brahmacharya (Restraint) and Aparigraha (Non-grasping). The five Niyamas are commitments to ourselves, and principles that we should follow in our daily life. They are Saucha (Cleanliness), Santosha (Contentment), Tapas (Austerity), Svadhyaya (Self-study) and Isvara Pranidhana (Surrender). When you find yourself struggling (on or off the mat) the answer is most likely found in Yamas and Niyamas as outlined in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.