A yoga practitioner may at some stage develop a yearning to examine the essence of yoga and learn about its holistic (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) qualities.
Along the way, one may come to appreciate that asana (physical postures) is the 3rd limb of Ashtanga – and that an awareness of certain duties, observances and restraints could be cultivated to benefit from the practice of yoga on a cellular and neurological level:
- 1st limb – yamas (restraints): ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacarya, aparigraha; respectively non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, self-restraint, freedom from greed.
- 2nd limb – niyamas (duties; observances): sauca, santosa, tapas, svadhyaya, pranidhana; respectively, purity, contentment, spiritual pursuit, self-study and surrender to a higher power. (click here to read about the other 6 of 8 limbs)
With the ongoing pursuit of these goals, the aspirant engages in the physical performance of asana and pranayama, which instill qualities and discipline in the mind increasing its aptitude in concentration (dharana), and thereafter, assists the mind with the necessary predisposition to sit in quiet meditation (dhyana).
All of these in combination lead, in due course, to the 8th and ultimate goal of ashtanga yoga – samadhi, sometimes described as “esctasy” or “pure bliss”, which in essence signifies union with the Divine.
by Adriel J. Ho