Ashtanga is a Sanskrit word, which is created by joining two words, ashta and anga. Ashta means eight. Anga is translated as limbs or steps. Ashtanga Yoga refers to the eight aspects of Yoga practice. Yoga is union. Yoga is a tangible method of attaining liberation from suffering and ultimate realization of supreme consciousness.

The eight aspects of Yoga practice are Yama(restraints), Niyama(observances), Asana(posture), pranayama(breath control), Pratyahara(withdrawal of the senses), Dharana(concentration), Dhyana(meditation) and Samadhi(absorption).

The Yamas are the moral codes, which free the mind and life of a yoga practitioner from undesirable thoughts and feelings resulting from incorrect actions. The Yamas include, Ahimsa(non-violence), Satya(truthfulness), Asteya(non-theft), Brahmacharya(preserving vital energy) and Aparighraha(non-envy).

The Niyamas are those thoughts and activities, which promote a state of mind, which is conducive to Yoga. The Niyamas include Saucha(cleanliness), Santosha(contentment), Tapas(heat), Svadhyaya(study of the supreme), Ishvara Pranidhana(surrender to the supreme).

The Asana practice is the gateway into the steps of Ashtanga Yoga. Asana practice, which includes Pranayama, returns the body to a radiant state of health and purifies the subtle energy body. This prepares the mind for meditation and encourages dis-functional behaviour patterns to be abandoned.

The Ashtanga Vinyasa System, refers to a method of Yoga practice, which was described in the Yoga Kurunta, by Vamana Rishi. It includes hundreds of postures, which are sequentially linked by Vinyasa. Vinyasa is the breath-initiated movement between postures. Three actions are emphasized in the Ashtanga Vinyasa method. Bandhas(locks or energy seals), Dristi(the gaze or looking place in each posture) and Oujaii Pranayama(a sound induced breath applied to both the inhaling and exhaling breath).

When these principles are applied continuously, the Asana practice reveals the culmination of Ashtanga Yoga.

Author's Bio: 

Caroline Klebl teaches workshops, teacher training courses and yoga retreats within the US and internationally. She has put out a . To view her present teaching schedule please visit her website