Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga (pronounced ashtanga) can be translated as “eight steps to inner freedom.” One of the eight steps in Ashtanga Yoga is to practice positions (asanas), the ones we usually associate with yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga is a whole philosophy with practical application for living in inner and outer health and a path to enlightenment.

YTTI runs the Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh. If you want to attend a yoga course, you can register on YTTI‘s website.


History of Ashtanga Yoga

The roots of yoga can be dated to about 5,000 years ago, and the Indian culture, where shields representing people performing yoga positions, called asanas, were used in trade around the river. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which means to unite.

It is the union of all aspects of an individual: body, mind, and soul. Yoga unites all opposites: mind and body, stillness and movement, masculine and feminine, sun and moon to create unity between them. Yoga is one of the six branches of Indian philosophy and is referred to in the ancient Indian Vedas.

Legend Of Ashtanga Yoga

There is a legend that tells that the knowledge of Yoga was first shared by the god Shiva to his wife Parvati and then on to the world. Throughout the millennia, the knowledge of yoga was then passed on orally through an unbroken tradition of gurus and disciples who worked and still work to preserve, teach, and practice the wisdom of yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga – 8 Steps

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

The script “Patanjali’s yoga sutras” is considered by many as the yoga script in front of everyone and is probably the oldest scripture on yoga. It dates back to about 100-300 years after Christ in our era. In this classic, Patanjali presents yogic cosmology through 195 so-called “sutras.” (wisdom beads). These sutras formulated as short sentences constitute a condensed compilation of wisdom from several yoga traditions.

According to the yoga women, the ultimate purpose of yoga is to reach “kaivalya” (freedom), to be fully absorbed with “antaryamine,” “the inherent,” or what we call the soul. Another word used for “the inherent” is “Purusha.” When this level of consciousness is realized, man is freed from the collective mind and reincarnation ceases. In the second and third chapters of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes a method of practicing traditional yoga which he calls “the eight-fold path.”

Ashtanga Yoga – the eight-way yoga

In the West, we mainly know Ashtanga Yoga (pronounced Ashtanga) as the performance of various asanas (positions). In fact, asanas are only one of the eight steps of Ashtanga Yoga. Patanjali describes the following eight disciplines of yoga to practice for self-realization.

First Step: Yama

The art of having a healthy approach to the world and a universal ethic.
Nonviolence, respectful, and honest behavior.

Areas within the discipline of Yama:


Constructive action, constructive thought, constructive speech.
Conflict and violence are rooted in fear, anger, ignorance, and selfishness.
Ahimsa is practiced by using his power constructively and by developing compassion, understanding, patience, and increased self-esteem.


The Art of Honesty and Acceptance of Self.
This principle demonstrates the importance of accepting rather than judging one’s thoughts. Only when we are completely honest in our interior is we given space to see ourselves as we are. This principle is practiced through constructive feedback and by acting towards others with acceptance and without a judgmental attitude.

By being honest with ourselves, we become more and more aware of the patterns and role-plays we play. Patterns and role-play that originate from upbringing, society, culture, media, and more. Is what we know, think, and say together, or am I prepared for others to like me? Do I express what I want or control my designs to pretend to, e.g., be “happy” even though I’m really sad? Am I really honest with myself?


The art of being generous and feeling whole. Generosity, cultivating a sense of perfection/wholeness, being content with what one has, and being free from desire.


The art of living with moderation and having high energy.
This principle is about living a life of balance and moderation. It emphasizes the importance of building up and sustaining a high level of prana (vital energy), providing an outlet for emotions, (instead of depressing them) and not getting too caught up in the thoughts.

Moderation is practiced at all levels; sex, food, activity, rest, and all the impressions and expressions our everyday life exposes us to.


The art of living in non-attachment to the material and outer world at large. Be free from the desire to own, to satisfy the needs rather than the desires. To practice non-bonding to material things, possessions, relationships, and habits.


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Second Step: Niyama

The art of developing a true relationship with the Self; discipline, observation.

Areas of Discipline

Niyama Shaucha

The Art of Living in Purity. Having a clean body, good eating, and health habits. To practice tranquility and equality in thought, speech, and discrimination.


The art of being content with what is.
To accept what is, accept the circumstances and make the best of each situation.

The practice of gratitude and joy; to keep calm in both success and failure. An independent state of calm where we are not dependent on external feedback or events for our sense of purpose.


The art of having discipline; spiritual fire. The discipline and the will to do what is necessary to achieve a predefined goal. The practice of determination to achieve a goal as well as everyday chores and tasks. The practice of enthusiasm for the spiritual path. By learning discipline and responsibility for tasks in the outer world, the ability to be disciplined in the inner world develops.


The Art of Learning About Myself; contemplation and studies that lead to self-realization. To contemplate the knowledge offered to us in various forms and constant observation of oneself and the activities of the mind. The practice of observing and reflecting on yoga texts, meditation, and a genuine desire to come to insight.


The Art of Devoting to God, Antaryamin (the Inner), the Soul. To attach to a force greater than ourselves. To set goals and set a direction in life that is in line with our inner inspiration.

To be willing to “give up” and let go in relation to whether we reach our goals or not and to let go of the ego’s desire for a higher power (Self, Antaryamin, Universe, God, a god/goddess, life force or our own words for the higher power). The practice of willingness to indulge, letting go of “being right” and “knowing best,” cultivating trust, devotion, and sincerity.
Willingness to transcend the mind.

Third Steps: Asanas

The art of practicing “Asanas” positions, positions, develops stability in the body, the elasticity of the pulmonary fibers and in other parts of the respiratory system. Each asana has a specific function. Practicing asanas affects several levels of the human being:

Influence on the physical body

“Inner massage” and balancing of the organs, increased blood circulation, muscles are strengthened and become more flexible, hormones are balanced and metabolism increases, Furthermore, digestion and intestinal work are stimulated. An important role played by asanas is that we develop a strong, supple body with greater endurance and better posture.

All in all, the body is strengthened on all levels, the immune system is revitalized, and general health is improved.

Impact on the subtle body (electromagnetic body, pranamayakosha)

The flow of prana in the meridians (energy paths) is stimulated, the chakras (knots where the meridians meet) are balanced, balancing it the masculine and feminine.

Impact on the emotional body

Auran (the energy field around the physical body) is purified from blocking energy, negative emotions, and fears.

Influence on the mind-body

We “land” more in the body instead of being “up in the head,” it becomes “quiet,” calm. A sense of clarity and tranquility.

Fourth Step: Pranayama

The art of controlling and regulating breathing.
Pranayama is the control and regulation of prana (life energy) through the control and regulation of breathing.
Breathing is the physical manifestation of prana, and by learning to control breathing, the ability to regulate prana in the body develops.

Pranayama has a calming and balancing effect on the nervous system.

Pranayama consists of various breathing exercises.
Just as there are many forms of asanas, there are many forms of Pranayama. For example, Ujjayi and Viloma Pranayama are performed with open nostrils while, for example, Pratiloma and Nadi Shodhana Pranayama use their fingers to regulate breathing. The many different forms of Pranayama have different effects on the physical body and our state of mind.

Tasmin Sati Svasa Prasvasayorgativicchedah Pranayamah

Translation: regulation of breathing or control of Prana by stopping inhalation and exhalation.

Pranayama is described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Chapter II-49. Breathing is the external manifestation of Prana, the vital energy. The breath is like electricity; it is physical, material Prana. The breath is “Stuhla” matter. Prana is “Sukshma,” subtle.

By learning to control breathing, you learn to control even the subtle Prana energy inboard.

“Just As The Goldsmith Cleans Away Impurities From Gold Through Detonation, By Actively Blowing In The Bellows, So Does The Yoga Student Clear Away Impurities In The Body And” Indriyas “By Blowing His Lungs, Thus, By Practicing Pranayama.”

Sri Swami Sivananda


There is much knowledge about practicing Pranayamas. One of the most important elements in practice is “Bandhas.” Bandhas are “locks” that help “prana” (conscious presence) to sensibly control incoming prana and allow it to flow rhythmically and then distribute it in the body in a balanced way.

Two of the most important bandhas are Mula Bandha (root lock) and Jalandhara Bandha (neck lock). Other important factors in the practice of pranayama are proper breathing and sitting with a straight spine.

It is generally recommended that a yoga teacher be advised to learn pranayama. The main goal of pranayama is to unite prana with apana and to lift the united pranapana towards the head slowly. The fruit of Pranayama is Udghata or the awakening of sleeping Kundalini.

Fifth Step: Pratyahara

The art of drawing attention in the five senses is withdrawn from the outer world to the inner
To become one with the inner experience. By drawing attention from the external environment and turning it inward with a focus on breathing and inner sensations, we calm the mind and become more aware of our body.

With this awareness and we can go deeper into the practice of yoga and learn to go through limitations, fears, and expectations.

A key in the practice of pratyahara is to observe the body, breathing and various sensations as a “witness.” To witness what we experience as a neutral observer. Just like when you look at a river. It runs past leaves, branches, plants, insects, etc. and we witness this. We see what is there, but we do not follow the river ourselves.

An important form of pratyahara is Indriya pratyahara, control of the senses. In our media culture, most people suffer from overstimulation of the senses. The result of a constant bombardment of impressions from TV, radio, computers, magazines, magazines, books, etc.

We are confronted daily with noise, noise, commercials, strong colors, loud music, advertising, e-mail, and other forms of impressions. We have grown up and educated ourselves to wallow in the impressions of the mind in the form of entertainment and constant exposure to various forms of media such as TV and the Internet. The problem is that the mind has its own instinctive will (or plural = will …).

The mind tells us what to do. If we do not discipline our senses, then our senses are through endless demands. We are so used to constantly being fed with sensory experiences that we do not know how we can be in peace of mind. We have been taken as “hostages” by the mind and its tricky nature. Guided by the mind, we are constantly searching for what stimulates the needs of the mind, and we easily forget about higher goals in life. By practicing pratyahara with compassion and discipline, you reach deeper levels of presence and meditation.

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Sixth Step: Dharana

The art of focusing and concentrating.
Attention to the point that leads to meditation. Dharana stabilizes the peace of being beyond the mind. The basic idea is to keep the focus and focus of attention in only one direction. (English: One-pointedness) This does not mean a forced effort to focus on solving, for example, a mathematical problem.

Dharana is a form of deeper concentration. The purpose of Dharana is to calm the mind by focusing it on some form of stable object or entity. Before one can retract the mind and its activities, it is useful to practice focusing the attention on a single physical object.

After the mind is still, you are prepared for meditation and can better focus on a subject or a certain experience.

Seventh Step: Dhyana

The art of meditating deeply.
To feel connected with everything. Dhyana is the perfect contemplation beyond the body and this world.

It involves concentration at a certain point with the intention of understanding in depth the truth of it.

Dhyana leads to the ability to discern what is the viewer, the means of being able to see (e.g., vision, hearing) and the objects that are experienced.

Eighth Step: Samadhi

The Art of Being Absorbed in and Merging with the Higher Self (The Soul, Antaryamin – “the Inner,” Higher Consciousness)
Samadhi means bringing together, merging. In Samadhi, our sense of separation from other people and the world at large ceases. Our ego identity ceases to exist in much the same way that a caterpillar no longer exists once it has become a butterfly.

In Samadhi, our separate identity ceases to exist, and you become one with the divine. (The Soul, God, Everything, Antaryamin, the Source of the Universe, etc.)

It is a state of super-consciousness characterized by joy, wisdom, compassion, peace, and complete freedom.

Enlightenment is not something we can fight for you to achieve through effort. It is a condition that must be given by someone with that ability.
The Buddha struggled for enlightenment, and when he gave up one day, it just happened: a light from heaven came down on his nose and …………… … it happened.

The Mind Can’t
Become A Buddha The
Body Can’t
Become A Buddha
Just What Can’t Become A Buddha
Can Become A Buddha

Zen Poem

What can we do if we can still do nothing?

Of course, we can do a lot.
The first seven disciplines in Ashtanga Yoga are examples of what we can and are recommended to do on the “yoga path” for enlightenment.

If we can combine a disciplined spiritual work with a great deal of humility, joy, and trust in a Higher Power, the “road” will probably be both more fun and easier. The spiritual path is not a process of becoming something or changing oneself. It is to be free from all the illusions that obscure our presence and our ability to see clearly. As long as we fight, the opponent is the illusion we have made to our own.

In that struggle, there is no room for the divine power to give grace as it happened to the Buddha.

When we stop fighting, when we are best friends with our past, when our bodies are clean and as healthy as possible, when we have declared peace with our fears, when we have good relationships with our loved ones (especially with mum and dad ) and when we have a relation to the divine (or what we choose to call “it”) which is characterized by the confidence that this power wants us well, loves us and has the ability to give us Samadhi, the enlightened state … then we are ready and “it” happens when it happens.


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