Yoga's 8 Fold Path

The 8 steps to total enlightenment

To achieve the goal of yoga, there are eight steps (also called the eight fold path of yoga) that student's need to follow. Ashtanga is the Sanskrit name for what is referred to as the eight fold path of yoga. The name Ashtanga is derived from the words "ashta" (meaning "eight") and "anga" (meaning "limb").

Yoga's 8 fold path, or rather its 8 limbs map the journey that one's soul shall take when they study yoga. The mission of the 8 fold path is to bring enlightenment into one's life. In order to reach total yoga aspiration, its students have to draw their consciousness from an outward focus to an inward focus.

Yoga's 8 fold path (obviously) occurs in 8 steps. These disciplines are meant to purify one's mind and they occur in the following order:

  1. Yama – directs students of yoga to interact externally according to 5 moral disciplines:
    • Ahimsa - demands that you respect everything and everyone around you, including plants, animals and non-living things.
    • Satya – rules that one should be honest and mean what they say.
    • Asteya – dictates that one should never steal money, trust or a relationship from another.
    • Brahmacharya – rules that overindulgence of things like sex, food and power for self- or social-satisfaction is unforgivable.
    • Aparigraha – favors a life of greedlessness and simplicity, over attachment to possessions or money that will distract you from your true self.
  2. Niyama – is the path of self-restraint. This step on the 8 fold path occurs in 3 steps:
    • Shauch – directs students of yoga to keep their bodies and minds physically clean.
    • Santosh – asks that you do your best in every task and be happy with it.
    • Tapa – requests that you will give up certain pleasures in order to achieve your goal.
  3. Asana - is defined as a step on the 8 fold path made up of 84 physical postures, or Asanas, performed to strengthen the body, increase health and prepare one for meditation.
  4. Pranayama – is a step on the 8 fold path that concerns controlled breathing. It's performed in order to increase one's life energy. Proper yoga contains 4-step breathing: inhaling (or Poorak), exhaling (or Rechak), stopping before exhalation (or internal Kumbhak) and stopping after exhalation (or external Kumbhak).
  5. Pratyahara – is the step that draws your focus deeply inward. Five main senses are sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. Yogis train their senses to remain quiet without outer stimuli. The first five limbs of yoga's 8 fold path are external practices – they draw one's consciousness from an outward focus.
  6. Dharana – is a step that focuses on the concentration needed for meditation.
  7. Dhyana - is known as the step that achieves yoga meditation.
  8. Samadhi – is the final step on yoga's 8 fold path. Achieving this final step means that you've attained unity with the flow of energy in the universe.
  9. These remaining 3 steps, or limbs, in the 8 fold path are internal practices – they draw one's consciousness from an inward focus.

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