Ashtanga Yoga comprises of eight spiritual practices and it is also known as Eight Limbs Yoga. The first four Limbs consist of Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama. The other Limbs consist of Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. While the first four Limbs are external cleansing practices, the latter four Limbs are internal cleansing practices. The practice of Asanas in Ashtanga Yoga are with Vinyasa and Tristhana whereas in other Yogas it is not so.
In Vinyasa (breathing and movement) each movement is accomplished by one (only one) breath. Vinyasa cleanses internally. As proof of internal cleansing the sweat appears all over the body due to the ousting of toxins. The Breath Technique employed in Vinyasa is known as Ujjayi Breathing (victorious breath). Steady and even inhalation and exhalation with equal duration for both is the characteristic of Ujjayi Breathing.
Trishana consists of three actions – posture, breathing technique and concentrated look to a pointed place (Drishti). These three go hand in hand.
Posture: There are three levels or series of poses. The first is Yoga Chikitsa. It detoxifies and aligns with body. The second series is Nadi Shodhana. It cleanses and opens energy channels so as to purify the nervous system. The third series is Sthira Bhaga. It integrates and consolidates the practice. The first series is also known as Primary Series, the second as Intermediate Series and the third as Advanced Series.
Breathing Technique (Ujjayi Breathing): Steady and even inhalation and exhalation with equal duration for both are warranted in Ujjayi Breathing. Each movement is in company with one breath.
Drishti (Looking to pointed Place): Concentrated to a pointed place during Asana is called Drishti. Drishti purifies and stabilizes mind functioning. There are nine Drishti points:
1 Nose 2 Between the eyebrows 3 Navel 4 Thumb 5 Hands 6 Feet 7 Up 8 Right side 9 Left side
Mind focusing on breath and Drishti attains deep state of concentration. This opens up the path of practice of Dharana and Dhyana.
The mind automatically comes under control once the four internal cleansing practise is done. Once the mind is in control, the six poisons –
- kama (desire),
- krodha (anger),
- moha (delusion),
- lobha (greed),
- matsarya (sloth),
- mada (envy)
surrounding the spiritual heart vanish.
Ashtanga Yoga or say Patanjali’s Eight Limbed Yoga gets accomplished when the cleansing and purification of the internal and external sense organs are done.