[ASH-taang]: Noun. Sanskrit meaning "The Eight Limbed" yoga
Ashtanga yoga literally translates as “the eight limbs”. These eight limbs were collated and discussed by the sage, Patanjali. These eight “limbs”, or steps, are the path to enlightenment. They are as follows:
1. yama [YA-ma]: moral or ethical disciplines
2. niyama [NI-ya-ma]: personal cleansing using moral or ethical disciplines
3. asana [AH-sah-nah]: posture
4. pranayama [PRAH-naa-yah-MUH]: rhythmic breath control
5. pratyahara [PRAT-ee-ya-hara]: withdrawal of the mind; disconnecting with senses
6. dharana [dhar-un-aa]: concentration of the mind,
7. dhyana [dee-yaan]; meditation
8. samadhi [SAM-aah-dee]:being at one with the object of meditation, utter bliss and peace
All these steps are supportive of the next and all enhance each other. Once the first four limbs have been practiced daily on the physical body, then the latter (internalised) limbs will come into being over time and with patience.
Philosophy aside, the physical aspect of ashtanga yoga which sets it apart from the other yoga styles is that it is a predetermined sequence of asanas as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois . This style of yoga is physically demanding as it involves synchronizing breathing (ujjayi) with a progressive and continuous series of postures -a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, flexibility, stamina, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.