Types of Yoga| ashtanga yoga
Ashtanga Yoga

ashtanga yogaRaja Yoga is also called Ashtang Yoga because the eight limbed practices of Ashtang yoga come under Raja yoga. It is considered the royal way of doing yoga. It is basically based on the principles of controlling the mind and achieving the salvation and total deliverance from the world by controlling the energy generated by the thought processes. Ashtanga yoga was in the ancient times used for the sole purpose of grooming the princes and princesses of royal families and others of lower birth were not given any exposure to it. Thus the yogic practices of Raja yoga were exclusive to Rajas or kings, hence the name.


Ashtanga yoga is a path that can be accessed today by anyone and it is a way of yoga that has access to all the other forms of yoga, exclusively decided for a certain kind of individual according to his or her understanding of principles of yoga and basic temperament. It can therefore be patterned according to one's disposition and essential nature. It makes use of asanas and meditative practices but all the practices are firmly placed on the strong foundations of thought energies. This means that the Sadhak or yogi is supposed to control his thoughts and direct them towards dissociation from the worldly matters while he is serving and looking after all his duties. It is not complete bodily detachment but a form of mental dissociation that the worldly affairs and material objects do not disturb or even attract him. He realizes the importance of self.


Raja yoga believes in the entity of Prakriti, which is the nature extending to the highest precincts of the universe. This has large influence on the Purush or the self, which is the other entity, in all aspects of his life. The purush gets manipulated by the power of prakriti in every event of his life and everything that he does. Thus he gets swayed from his path from time to time under the power of Prakriti entity. Purush on the other hand has been endowed with all the power of the third entity that is Ishvara, or God himself. Thus if the purush controls this influence of prakriti over his self through control over his thought processes he can unite with Ishvara and experience the merger with the divine consciousness.


Ashtanga yoga is a practical way of approaching the path of enlightenment. In his lack of Viveka or state of Aviveka, which is a condition of not understanding the true nature of entities due to lack of wisdom, the purush considers himself dependent upon the prakriti. He thinks that his existence is solely dependent upon the prakriti. He feels tremendously drawn towards the prakriti and feels attached with all its objects. This is a state of Moha. He gets involved deeply into the cycles of prakriti and gets more detached from the truth and reality.


And the reality remains that he and his self are the sole entities that are part and parcel of the Ishvara. He is not different from divine. He has all the power to do everything that he wishes to as he is the essence of divine himself. All he needs to do is to detach him from the bonds of prakriti and that will automatically bring him closer to the Ishvara. He has to open his eyes and realize that his own attachment towards prakriti is the main detriment to his own progress to the path towards the divine consciousness, which is the path to salvation.


The methodology of attainment of salvation through Ashtanga yoga is based on one's personal capacity and grasping power of the ultimate. Raja yoga or Ashtanga yoga recognizes and defines three kinds of pupils and the path of learning is decided upon the category in which a person falls. These are:


Uttama Adhikari: He is the first class aspirant. He starts with Vairagya and Abhyasa and soon attains Samadhi. He starts with Citta Vritti Nirodha, which means thought process control and modifications.


Madhyama Adhikari: He is the middle class aspirant as prescribed three kinds of practices of Kriya yoga to raise his level to the first class aspirant so that he can attain Samadhi. These practices are: Tapas: It is practice of asceticism with complete egoless ness. The person follows all his actions with complete detachment from selfish interests.


Tapas: It is practice of asceticism with complete egoless ness. The person follows all his actions with complete detachment from selfish interests.


Svadhayay: It is the study of literature and scriptures to calm the mind and gain wisdom and knowledge about the divine and self.


Ishvarapranidhana: This is complete surrender to the will of God by admitting and believing in mind, spirit and bodies His complete influence over the self.


Adhama Adhikari: This is the lowest kind of aspirant and is prescribed the path of Ashtang yoga. Ashtang yoga is the eight limbed practice of yoga. These are:

Yama: Practicing the eternal vows of Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha.


Niyama: Observing the behaviour of Shoucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadhayay, Ishvarapranidhana.

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Asana: Doing the postures prescribed by yoga.


Pranayama: Practicing the control of vital prana.


Pratyahara: Detachment of senses.


Dharana: Practicing intense concentration.


Dhyana: Practicing meditation.

Samadhi: Attainment of state of merger with supreme consciousness.


Yoga-Its wellknown Compilation
Yoga has been written about in the Hindu mythological literature on many occasions. Some of the compilations are used till today and are published and discussed in various ways. The main ones are:


Bhagwad Gita: Bhagwad Gita is a part of the epic Mahabharata. It describes the sequence when just before the war Arjuna feels uncomfortable and reluctant to go into the war as the enemies were all members of his extended family. Lord Krishna advises him against having any cowardly feelings and preaches to him the importance of right effort under any kind of moral or social dilemma. This is indeed the essence of Karma Yoga. Bhagwad Gita is till date the oldest work of Hindu mythological origin. It describes various forms of Yoga, most of which are practiced till date. These branches of Yoga are mainly Karma Yoga, Gyana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Raj Yoga, Kundalini Yoga and Tantra Yoga.


Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Originally propounded by Maharishi Patanjali between 100 BC and 200 AD, this work remains of interest even today. This fact can be proven by seeing the number of commentaries given by various people in the field of Yoga on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, most of which are available in the forms of books in the marketplace. The reason for this popularity could be that Patanjali's Yoga Sutras are based on bodily exercises and meditation. He emphasizes cittavritti nirodha or control of mental fluctuations through Yoga.


Patanjali calls his form of Yoga as Ashtang Yoga owing to the eight limbs of the entire system. But according to the most frequently used definitions it comes closer to Raj Yoga because of the approach to meditation. These became very acceptable eight branches and are used till date by the practitioners of Hatha Yoga also.

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1. Yama: Cleansing the mind consciously from the five vices of violence, dishonesty, theft, impure sexual thoughts, and unnecessary possessions.

2. Niyama: Observation of five rules of purity, austerity, satisfaction, study and surrender to God.


3. Asana: Refers to the seated position during meditation. In the advance stages all the postures of Hatha yoga are also covered.


4. Pranayama: Prana means breath that unites the body into a chord of vitality and vigour. These are basically breathing exercises to cleanse the system and provide the necessary oxygen to each and every part of the body.


5. Pratyahara: This refers mainly to the process of redirecting the sense organs inwards as against their normal outwardly orientation.


6. Dharana: This refers to concentrating whole attention on a single object.


7. Dhyana: This refers to intense concentration on the inner reality and cutting off from the external distractions temporarily.


8. Samadhi: Attaining a state of complete unison with the supreme consciousness. This is also the state of complete liberation.


Hatha Yoga Pradipika: It is the compilation made first by Swami Swatmarama. He has identified the body to be used as tool for mental purification as opposed to the approach of Maharishi Patanjali who says that mind has to be developed first through meditation and then the knowledge should be utilized by the body to energize and ultimately liberate itself. Hatha Yoga Pradipika emphasizes the importance of various asanas. In the Western world many people consider this as the essence of Yoga because the various bodily postures give physical health and vitality, but the exploration and development of the mind is never reached. Hatha Yoga has influence of Tantric Yoga substantially on it.


There are various other compilations. Due to their ancient nature and not enough archiving done, many of them may have been lost during the years. Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya has done the only known translation of Yogayajnavalikya Samhita. He has also reconstructed the Yog Rahasya propounded by Rishi Nathmuni, for which no records were available.

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There are various texts and books available on Yoga these days. Most of them deal with one branch of Yoga or the other. There are very few compilations that give complete knowledge of Yoga. Another very important feature is that Yoga emphasizes the role of a teacher or guru who can impart the knowledge in unselfish and useful way with all explanations. So just reading a few books is not enough as complete knowledge is essential in this field.


Many of the books available are in the form of commentaries of practitioners of Yoga and Yogic gurus. These generally have heavy influence of commentator's personal biases, interpretations and inclinations and should not be thought of as translations of the original works.


To ease out the discrepancies an attempt is made through this website to impart impartial and comprehensive information in the most comprehensible way to the people who are making an attempt to understand the ancient methodology of yoga.