What Is Ashtanga Yoga ? What Are The Benefits And Steps Of Patanjali Yoga.

Updated On: 2-Oct-2022

What is yoga ?

Yoga means union. Through different yoga techniques, one can achieve the highest state of self awareness. There are different types of yoga available. Some of the most known yoga practices are as follows:

  • Karma yoga
  • Bhakti yoga
  • Sanyasa yoga
  • Jnana yoga
  • Raja yoga

What is the purpose of yoga ?

The real purpose of yoga is liberation, which arises from the union between our thoughts and body. When our thoughts are impure, we identify ourselves with the body.

When we identify ourselves with the soul and then when we meditate, we will see the real truth(i.e., we are not the body but the soul). We identifying with our body is just our ignorance.

Thus, the best motive of yoga is getting clarity by purifying ourselves, which later on results in self-realization and liberation.

  • Yoga goals to perform this via an extreme and systematic cleaning of the body and mind with the practice (Abhyasa) of numerous techniques. In reality, there's no union, simply the elimination of the impurities that are stopping us from understanding our real nature.

    The roots of Ashtanga Yoga and reference to Hinduism

    There are many styles of yoga and plenty of techniques to practice yoga. Most of them are versions of the historical yoga called Ashtanga Yoga, which is defined inside the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

    Ashta in Sanskrit means 8 and Anga in Sanskrit means limb. Ashtanga yoga is so 8 limbs of yoga. The first 5 strategies are for physical body and the ultimate 3 are internal, which we will discuss below.

    Siva was worshiped as an ascetic yogi seated in meditation. The Purana's and the Shiva scriptures do not forget him because he was the originator of yoga and yoga postures.

    The Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali is the systematic exercise of yoga discovered in the historical yoga systems. Therefore, an exceptional effort is needed to understand the whole system to reach the ultimate.

The limbs of yoga

The 8 steps or limbs referred to within the Yoga Sutras are as follows:

  1. Yama (Restraints)
  2. Niyama (Observances)
  3. Asana (Postures)
  4. Pranayama (Manipulation of breath)
  5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses)
  6. Dharana (Awareness of mind)
  7. Dhyana (Meditation)
  8. Samadhi (Transcendental state)


Yama includes the exercise of 5 restraints:

  1. Ahimsa (Non violence)
  2. Satya (Truth)
  3. Asteya (Non stealing)
  4. Brahmacharya (Celibacy)
  5. Aparigraha (Disowning of possessions)

The daily practice of yamas will be leading ourselves to control us in a right way, and this comes from within.

They are the splendid vows (vratas) you adopt in the presence of your guru or your private deity before starting it.


Niyamas are self transformation tools. Niyama includes the exercise of 5 rules:

  • Saucha (Purity)
  • Santosha (Contentment)
  • Tapas (Austerity)
  • Svadhyaya (Self study)
  • Isvara-Pranidhana (Divine worship)

The niyamas are important in for our internal purification. They assist us to cope with negativity, stability of ourselves and increase our craving for self-realization.

Both yamas and niyamas are interconnected. We can't exercise one without the other. Both plays a vital role in the practice of yoga.


Asana includes training yogic postures for our body. For example, sitting in lotus posture(Padmasana). Without a proper asana we won't be able to meditate or concentrate fully.

Patanjali states the asanas as an critical part of yoga practice. Patanjali states that the postures have to be consistent and should be done in a relaxed way with an goal to obtain the infinite within ourselves.

Asanas received extra prominence nowadays with the western taking on yoga for shaping body.


Pranayama is to reduce your breath intake. Patanjali (2.49) defines pranayama as the law of the incoming and outgoing breaths, where one need to control it properly. For example, we are driving a car then too much acceleration or brake is not right. Everything need to be in a controlled manner. In the same way, breath also have to be in proper control.

Patanjali (2.49)
tasmin sati shvasa prashvsayoh
gati vichchhedah pranayamah

Patanjali in addition states that one should take up the asanas or correct posture and then do the Pranayama.

In pranayama a yogi practices his breathing techniques until he is capable of keep his breath for longer duration.

In pranayama, inhalation is known as Puraka or svasa, and exhalation is known as Rechaka or prasvasa. The arresting of each and conserving the breath is known as Kumbhaka.

In India, there are yogis who can bury themselves underground for days or weeks without any breath and continue to be alive. They are capable to do it due to the perfection they obtain with yogic practices.


Pratyahara means restraining the senses. In pratyahara we withdraw or detach our senses absolutely. When we restrain them, we arrest the distractions of the thoughts, which is very important.

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Quote Of The Day
"It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitude and eagerness, that it can succeed."
- Patanjali, Yoga-Sutras

Regular exercise of pratyahara results in managing the senses and the thoughts. It also helps in the next stages in Ashtanga yog.


Dharana means focusing our scattered thoughts in a particular area or focusing it with awareness upon an item or intellectual photograph for an extended duration of time. The motive of the exercise is to restrain the thoughts and to increase awareness. The thoughts are normally very dynamic. We will now no longer enjoy peace until its actions are completely stopped, and the thoughts are withdrawn completely from the outdoor world. In dharana, we keep trying to pull back the thoughts and any distractions until our mind is firm.


Like dharana, Dhyana is likewise an inner exercise. Dhyana method, one-pointed meditation upon something of our hobby or inclination.

In dhyana, we are conscious upon the movements of our thoughts and the sensations of our physical body without trying to control them.

We can also additionally exercise it passively, simply as an observer.

The Yoga Sutras states that normal meditation gets rid of the afflictions or disturbances (klesas) of the thoughts.

It additionally states that the ones perfections or powers (siddhis) springing up from meditation do no longer produce karmic fruit.


Samadhi is a kind of state where we are self-absorbed. Depending on the extent of perfection or absence of otherness, samadhi is categorized into two,

  1. Savikalpa
  2. Nirvikalpa

In the Savikalpa Samadhi, you could enjoy a few bodily awareness and in the Nirvikalpa Samadhi your thoughts will be completely empty and lost from all kinds of thoughts or actions.

If there is attention or focus on something, then it will result in karma and some sanskaras. Its is known as sabija (with seed) samadhi. Its contrary is nirbija samadhi, it leads to destruction of all karmas and finally leading to liberation.