Ashtanga Yoga Yamas and Niyamas
Ashtanga Yoga is a very popular style of Yoga practice today. Ashtanga Yoga (Vinyasa flow) is a fusion of Yoga poses done in a particular sequence, incorporating the breath, inner power and the focusing of the mind. Ashtanga Yoga (Vinyasa flow) is an intensely physical practice for beginners, but as in most forms of Yoga, through continuous and dedicated practice, it moves us to deeper realms of our being.
People often associate Ashtanga Yoga (Vinyasa flow) with Maharshi Pathanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga or Eight Limbed Path to Yoga. But it is also worthy to mention that all forms of Yoga can be associated with Maharshi Pathanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, including the Ashtanga Vinyasa style of Yoga. Maharshi Pathanjali codified Yoga as a practice and did not apply rigid rules as to how one should go about it.
The initial focus of Ashtanga Yoga in Vinyasa style is on Asana or the physical postures as it is easier for us to access and control our body than our mind. When the practice deepens, we can become more connected with our breath during the practice (Pranayama) and finally we work on limiting our distractions by focusing our senses and awareness on particular points (Pratyahara and Dharana). The combined effect of body, breath and mind control is an increase in the ability to concentrate which slowly leads us to meditation (Dhyana). Throughout this process, we start finding that the elements of Yamas and Niyamas of Maharshi Pathanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga become stronger in our lives. Yamas state how we should treat others. There are 5 Yamas.
• Not harming anything or anyone in thought, word or action
• Being truthful
• Not taking what does not belong to us
• Having a control over our urges and thereby not wasting vital energies
• Having and receiving only what is needed.
Niyamas state how we should treat ourselves. There are 5 Niyamas
• Cleanliness physically and mentally
• Cultivating contentment with what we have
• Accepting all that comes our way as a means for self purification and having the enthusiasm to continue with the practices, come what may
• Studying ourselves and scriptures
• Surrendering to a higher force with a level of devotion.
Thus with a dedicated practice of Ashtanga Yoga in Vinyasa style, what Maharshi Pathanjali has codified
in his Ashtanga Yoga becomes a practical and experiential reality to us. That is when we live start living
harmoniously, both within and without.
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