Ashtanga Yoga revolves round the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, which were written down approximately in 200 AD. The core of Patanjali Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice.
The eight limbs of Yoga as follows:
- Yama: Self conduct
- Niyama: Personal observances
- Asanas: Body Postures
- Pranayama: Breathing exercises, and control of prana
- Pratyahara: Control of the senses
- Dharana: Concentration and Cultivating Inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana: Meditation
- Samadhi: Union with the Divine
Yama comprises of the following
- Ahimsa – Compassion of all living things
- Satya – Speak the truth if it does not harm anyone
- Asteya – Non-stealing
- Brahmacharya- Managing Sexual Energy
- Aparigraha- Neutralise the desire to acquire and hoard materialistic wealth
Niyama comprises of the following
- Sauca – Cleanliness of the body and mind
- Santosa- Contentment
- Tapas- Desire to achieve for oneself their full potential
- Svadhyaya- Self reflection
- Ishwara-pranidha- Always conscious of oneself
The above descriptions of the Sanskrit terms are a mixture of my own interpretations and from various other sources, therefore they are vague. Each Yogic practitioner will have their own interpretations. The general idea of Yama and Niyama is that one must direct his own energy, which is prana, in a positive manner.
The traditional method of Yogic teaching is to teach from limb 1 to limb 8 in a chronological manner. However, I do not agree. Many Yogic teachers spent many years with the students on limb 1 and limb 2 before going on to limb 3. The Yama and Niyama taught from teachers are taught and are not of their own thinking.
I believe we should start with limb 6, which is Dharana. This allows the Yoga student to build inner self awareness. With inner self awareness, Yama and Niyama will come naturally to them from within. We should not learn Pranayama before having Yama and Niyama as the student can have problems with their prana control. Asanas should also be learnt before pranayama to correct the person existing body posture so that pranayama practice will be smooth.
So everyone, practice conscientiously and hope that everyone will attain Samadhi and Kundalini!