When we speak of Ashtanga Yoga, it is worth clarifying that, on the one hand, we usually refer to the style or system of practice of asanas spread by the master Sri Pattabhi Jois. However, on a more formal level, Ashtanga Yoga is the series of eight steps or disciplines included in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the classical text that is considered the central guide of all yoga schools.
According to this work, the exhaustive and constant monitoring of the eight steps of yoga allows the yogi to calm the fluctuations of the mind, purify the body and finally reach the enlightenment or the state of yoga. In this way, the path of yoga is not limited to the series of asanas exercised on the mat, but the goal of every practitioner must be to carry out an integral practice that moves to different aspects of life. Only through the refinement of each of the eight steps can liberation finally be reached.
Thus, the eight steps of Ashtanga Yoga are:
These are moral codes or behaviors that allow us to live in harmony with ourselves and within society.
There are five:
- Ahimsa: Give up any type of violence.
- Satya: Defend and tell the truth.
- Asteya: Be honest, do not steal.
- Brahmacharya: Control the energy and not waste it.
- Aparigraha: Live with detachment.
They are codes or behaviors that purify the relationship we establish with ourselves.
There are also five:
- Saucha: Clean the body, the mind and the word.
- Santosha: Enjoy life. Enjoy it in all its aspects.
- Tapas: Live with austerity and discipline.
- Svadyaya: Cultivate self-knowledge.
- Ishvara Pranidhana: Practice devotion, service to the deity.
This is the physical part of the yoga practice, in which we exercise the body and with the breath we concentrate the mind through a series of postures looking for balance, stability, strength, flexibility and ease or comfort.
It is the set of practices related to the control and expansion of vital energy or prana. It works through breath with various methods of varying difficulty and intensity. Usually these are exercises that relax, stimulate or stabilize.
This is the practice of mental yoga through the control of the senses, which is achieved through various exercises. It consists of neutralizing the inputs that come from the senses, disconnecting from external information and focusing all our attention on what happens inside, both physically and mentally. The sequences of asanas are practiced with this intention throughout the session, so that our mind stays in the here and now.
Concentration. When we take the attention inward, we often discover the amount of physical discomfort or thoughts that cross our mind without rest. To begin to stop this fluctuation, we use different concentration techniques, trying to get used to it and learning to take all our concentration towards a certain point. One usually works fixing the mind on an unwavering object, like a candle, a flower, a mantra or a mandala, to avoid that it gets distracted.
The meditation. When we manage to maintain the flow of attention without distractions for long enough we enter into a state of meditation, in which the mind remains immobile. It involves developing our witnessing consciousness and becoming observers of ourselves, of our mind, at all times.
It is the final state of realization or supreme consciousness that is reached through a state of deep meditation, in which the physical body is transcended. We definitely melt into one. We become one with the All, reaching the knowledge of the Absolute.