Ashtanga Yoga – The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Table of Contents

Ashtanga Yoga – The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Medical parts were written by Dr. Mishra

Yoga is a living philosophy that has its roots in India’s ancient teachings, which date back over 4,000 years. It’s a system that includes various aspects and practices, not only the postures (asanas) that have come to define most of today’s Yoga in the west. 

Many other aspects of Yoga begin to uncover as we practice simple respiration and meditation techniques and yoga asana regularly and with awareness. The practice has the prospects to become transformational, and our awareness begins to expand beyond what we experience on the Yoga mat and into our daily lives.

One of the Hatha yoga systems integrates breath and movement in a flowing series of asanas in Ashtanga Yoga. Each asana has a specific amount of coordinated movements that go up to and out of it. It can assist in increasing strength, flexibility, and stamina and foster an overall sense of well-being and a still and focused mind when practiced daily.

Ashtanga Yoga

Are you someone who enjoys working out but finds Yoga to be too soft for you? I frequently hear people claim that Yoga isn’t much of a workout or prefer a sweaty workout. Perhaps you might give Ashtanga Yoga a try.

Yoga classes and Yoga teacher training alternatives abound for today’s Yogi. Yoga appears to have become a catch-all name for a sort of workout that emphasizes physical and mental strength, flexibility, awareness, and relaxation.

Even though the asanas are essentially the same, there are many diverse forms of Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is one of the more difficult types currently practiced, requiring a great deal of discipline, strength, and commitment.

History of Ashtanga Yoga

An ancient Guru, called Patanjali, summarised this particular form in the Yoga Sutras and wrote the oldest surviving literature. The eight limbs of Yoga, according to Patanjali’s teachings, are the path to ultimate enlightenment. 

The current history of Ashtanga Yoga goes back to the legendary Yoga Teacher Krishnamacharya, who received the practice from Ramamohana Brahmachari, a Yoga teacher based near Lake Mansarovar in Tibet.

Ashtanga Yoga, also known as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, has increased in popularity among Yogis worldwide. Shri K Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009), a student of Sri T Krishnamacharya and creator of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, formalized and popularised the Ashtanga Yoga method. As a result, the style is often known as Mysore-style Yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga, also known as Raja Yoga (The Royal Path) or Classical Yoga, is a technique or practice supposed to help you achieve a state of detachment known as vairagya and master the thirst of thirst all five senses. Raja Yoga goes more in the spiritual direction but can also be performed without a spiritual intent.

‘Asht’ means eight, and ‘ang’ indicates limbs in Sanskrit. As a result, Ashtanga Yoga, also known as the Eight Limbs of Yoga or the Eightfold Path, as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, is an ancient method for leading a disciplined life, alleviating suffering, and achieving self-realization.

What is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga?

“Vina Vinyasa Yogena asanadih na karayet”

‘Oh Yogi, do not practice asana without vinyasa.’ Vamana Rishi Yoga Korunta

Yogi Vamana’s teachings in his treatise “Yoga Kuranta” gave birth to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, a subclass of Hatha Yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga is not the same as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Patanjali initially mentioned “Ashtanga Yoga” in his Yoga Sutras, and it is a lifestyle that consists of eight main aspects. Asana is the third of Patanjali’s eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. 

In the asana area, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a subclass of Hatha Yoga. All Hatha Yoga asana practices, whether Traditional Hatha Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, or Vinyasa Yoga, are different types of a universal set of Hatha Yoga.

All of these various asanas practice approaches have grown and become famous on their own throughout time. Every method of asana practice has its own point of view. But, at the end of the day, they’re all distinct types of Hatha Yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga – The Modern Concept

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a traditional type of Yoga that is very vigorous and energetic. When done correctly, it necessitates a significant level of focus and concentration. It generates an internal heat that cleanses and purifies it, builds a strong and supple body, and gives mental clarity. Those who devote their lives to it discover that the Ashtanga Vinyasa discipline allows them to make rapid progress and see tangible results.

Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, traditionally performed six days a week in the morning, has a similar impact to re-booting your computer. You clear away all of the trash you’ve accumulated over the course of the day and start clearing out the garbage you’ve accumulated over your life by continuously performing it.

Why Do We Call Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga As Ashtanga Yoga?

The master instructor Pattabhi Jois, who taught this practice approach throughout the world, referred to it as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. However, over time, this long term was abbreviated to Ashtanga. 

Patanjali refers to his eight-limb Yoga as Ashtanga Yoga, and many people believe the two are interchangeable. Hatha Yoga is the first stage in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga practice philosophy, while Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga.

What Is The Difference Between Ashtanga And Vinyasa Yoga

Although yoga experts may likely have differing opinions on this, we’ve discovered that the phrases “Ashtanga” and “Vinyasa” are sometimes used interchangeably, although they have significant variances. 

Both kinds of Yoga place a significant emphasis on asana or poses. The eight limbs established by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras comprise moral and ethical standards, postures, breath practice, sensory withdrawal, focus, and contemplation.

Traditional Ashtanga Yoga is quite physically demanding and follows the same sequence and set of poses in a specific manner. Many of the same postures are used in Vinyasa or Power Yoga, but the order or variation of the poses varies. Most importantly, because Vinyasa connects breath to movement, it is faster-paced and has a flowing rhythm. Vinyasa Yoga is just as demanding as Hatha Yoga, but with a little more movement and a stronger focus on the breath.

The Key Concepts

The term Ashtanga Vinyasa is derived from two key Yoga principles: 

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, generally considered as the founding principles of Yoga, where the term Ashtanga refers to the “eight fundamental limbs” of Yoga and Vinyasa, which translates “correct placement” or “harmonious and smart sequencing of postures,” but is also frequently interpreted as merging movement with breath and chanting.

During practice, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga uniquely blends three key aspects. One of the essential aspects that helps clear the mind is for the learner to maintain a high level of focus and concentration throughout.

Breath and bandhas (ujjayi breath, moola bandha, and uddiyana bandha); asana (postures); and Drishti (concentration) make Ashtanga’s Tristana. To know more about bandhas, please read further.

Important Elements Of Ashtanga-vinyasa Yoga


The science of breathing has been practiced by yogis for millennia and is widely recognized as a strong technique by a wide range of people, including performers and public speakers. It is the most basic method of bringing energy and life spirit into our bodies, and it has amazing relaxing and stress-relieving properties. Breathing is the first and final act of life. However, for the most part, breathing is a subconscious process that receives little attention.

The process of enhancing your conscious knowledge of yourself begins with being constantly mindful of your breath. The cadence of the breath drives the entire Ashtanga Vinyasa practice, and ujjayi (victorious) breathing is essentially its heartbeat. 


You might have heard people saying, “Your energy is a valuable resource, use it wisely. “

Bandhas means to lock or block the energy flow in a particular area of the body. When the energy is blocked, the channel is energized to a maximum capacity to produce huge energy outflow throughout the body. Once the control over the energy is achieved, it can be used to maintain physical, mental, and spiritual alignment.

There are four types of bandhas:

  • Mula Bandha – Associated with the pelvic floor, pushes energy up towards your navel while preventing too much of it from leaking out.
  • Uddiyana Bandha – Associated with your core, moves energy farther up. More forcefully than it does in Moola Bandha. 
  • Jalandhara Bandha – Associated with the throat. And is performed by bringing the chin closer to the chest. 
  • Maha Bandha – Also called the “Supreme Bandha” or “Triple lock” as it provides the health benefits of all three bandhas, as mentioned above. 


The term Mula refers to a technique that focuses on squeezing the pelvic floor muscles, also known as the perineum. These rarely used muscles are difficult to detect and isolate at first, but once activated, they provide lift to the entire body. This technique, like ujjayi breathing, takes years to master the subtleties and precision, but even the most basic expression yields results.


The use of this bandha develops and tones the abdominal (core) portion of the body. Uddiyana signifies upward soaring. The core is engaged by bringing the abdomen in an inch or two below the navel and then performing an inner lift UP through the center of the body, which is easier to display and experience than moola bandha. This action activates the core, protects the back, and promotes good posture.


The Ashtanga Vinyasa system is divided into six distinct series: Primary (the first); Intermediate (the second); and Advanced A, B, C, and D (the third) (third, fourth, fifth, sixth). Sun salutations, standing poses, seated positions, backbends, and concluding poses are all included in each series. The sitting postures are the most noticeable distinction between the two series, while there are some minor differences in standing and backbends. Each series usually takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to finish.

Although we may integrate postures from the Advanced series into our improv courses, we teach the Primary and Intermediate series as traditional practices at Infinite Yoga. When students are ready to advance to the Advanced series, we refer them onward.


Every posture has a definite Drishti, or gazing point, which is meant to increase concentration. The aim of these structures, which include the nose (nasagrai), the brow (broomadhya), and the side (parsva), is to keep the attention focused on a single item rather than wandering around the room. The practice takes on a contemplative quality when Drishti is observed and maintained throughout.

All This Theory is Good, But What’s Ashtanga Yoga’s Practice Like?

The Primary Series is referred to as “Yoga Chikitsa,” which translates to “Yoga therapy.” This sequence aims to eliminate any evident physical difficulties that may be impeding your ability to maintain a healthy physique. For the most part, this entails stretching the hips and lengthening the hamstrings! This is something that the Primary Series excels at.

The Full Primary Series takes about 90 minutes to complete, which is lengthier than most yoga or fitness courses. In addition, the traditional method requires you to practice six days a week, which might be a difficult chore. 

More dedicated Ashtangis are advised to make lifestyle and dietary modifications, such as eating a plant-based or Lacto-vegetarian diet and practicing early in the morning. Not everyone is suited to Ashtanga Yoga. However, it’s possible for everyone.

Let me give you a quick rundown of the procedure:

  • Dynamic: You’ll feel like you’ve put in a lot of effort, and it’s not uncommon to sweat profusely!
  • Strengthening: The numerous chaturangas (common posture in vinyasa yoga and well-known ashtanga yoga pose consists of four limbs staff pose), as well as the daily repetition, make it an excellent approach to improve strength.
  • Challenging: Most Westerners aren’t used to practicing many of the poses in the Primary Series, so you might think at first, “I’ll never be able to do that.” But it will come in due course!
  • Build Endurance: It can be exhausting to build up the endurance for this level of practice because the Primary Series takes about 90 minutes to complete. You’ll be able to do this for a long time if you progressively put on the postures one by one.
  • Breath-centered: Pattabhi Jois famously said, “Only lazy people can’t perform Ashtanga Yoga.” He was pointing to the fact that Ashtanga is mostly a breathing exercise. So long as you’re breathing, you’re good to go! The rest can be added afterward.
  • Meditative: You can go into “the zone” when practicing Yoga if you know even a short sequence off-by-heart. You don’t need to follow a teacher’s instructions, simply flow in time with your breath.
  • Structured: The sequences can be tailored to meet the demands of each individual, but in general, everyone will practice the same set of postures every day until they have mastered it. You won’t be able to choose the positions you learn because Ashtanga Yoga has already been decided for you!
  • Physical adjustments (or “assists” ): Throughout your practice, teachers will offer physical adjustments (or “assists”). These aren’t always to correct you, they may also be incredibly therapeutic, assisting you in finding space and length in your postures. This, I believe, is one of the reasons why students progress so swiftly in Ashtanga Yoga!

The Primary Series is structured as follows: 5 sun salutation A and 3-5 Surya namaskar.

Forward folds, twists, and balances are among the standing postures.

A series of seated postures involving a great deal of forward folding, hip opening, and twisting. And several of Ashtanga’s distinctive “vinyasas” — back-and-forth hopping through a flow to keep the heart rate up and increase flexibility!

A deep backbend, shoulder stands, and a headstand are included in the final sequence.

Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga

The combination of activity and Ujjayi breathing helps the body generate heat, or, as Pattabhi Jois puts it, “boils the blood and thins it so it may circulate freely.” Of course, he was speaking metaphorically.  

Performing Ashtanga Yoga causes excessive sweating, allowing impurities to leave the body; it increases blood circulation, reducing or eliminating body aches and joint discomfort; cleanses inner organs and flushes out impurities; and filters the nervous system. Apart from increasing stamina, flexibility, and attention, daily practice fosters a sense of surrender and devotion, which aids spiritual advancement on the Yoga path.

Scientific Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga


One of the fundamental goals of Yoga is to have a calm mind, which offers several advantages, including the ability to make better judgments, a lower likelihood of becoming irritated, and a more positive outlook on life. Yogic activities also suppress the parts of the brain that cause anxiety, wrath, and irritation. This, in turn, promotes reduced anxiety, a decreased heart rate, and other benefits.

Yoga practice helps depression by increasing serotonin levels while decreasing monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters and cortisol. For the treatment of depressive disorders, a variety of therapeutic techniques are available. However, many patients turn to complementary therapies due to drug side effects, lack of response, or simply a preference for the complementary approach.

 This study has shown that yoga therapies may help people with depression, stress, and anxiety.


Of course, one of the most obvious and important benefits of Yoga is flexibility. It also aids in the development of muscular mass and strength and protects you from arthritis, back pain, and osteoporosis. Because you must stretch, bend, and twist in various poses during a yoga practice. That, in turn, soaks and squeezes cartilage and transports blood, nutrients, and oxygen throughout your entire body. As a result, it may aid in the prevention of arthritis and chronic pain. 

Yoga improves blood flow, hemoglobin, and red blood cell levels, allowing more oxygen to reach body cells and improving their function. 

When you twist, you wring out blood from your internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in. Inverted positions promote blood flow from the legs and pelvis back to the heart, where it is pushed into the lungs and oxygenated. 

study has shown that Yoga reduces resting heart rate, increases endurance, and improves maximum oxygen intake and use during exercise. Getting the heart rate into the aerobic range regularly could minimize the chance of a heart attack. While not all Yoga is aerobic, even Yoga movements that do not raise the heart rate to aerobic levels can help to enhance cardiovascular health.

Yoga For Nervous System

Due to modern life, practically every neurological system is now overworked. As a result, Shavasana (corpse posture), Yoga Nidra, Pranayama, Pratyahara (Pratyahara or the ‘withdrawal of the senses is the fifth element among the Eight stages of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga) and restorative Asanas are all beneficial. 

These approaches give your nervous system a break, which might help you sleep better. Insomnia medications aren’t particularly pleasant to take. As a result, other practices such as Yoga and meditation are becoming more popular. Go through this study to find out more about it.

Ashtanga Yoga For Cancer Patients And Survivors:

This healthy attitude of acceptance is especially helpful for people suffering from life-threatening illnesses since it reduces the stress caused by unpleasant symptoms. The postures target the tension, holding, and blocking of energy in certain joints and organs. As this tension is released, energy flows more freely throughout the body, allowing patients to feel a sense of greater well-being, strength, and mental, physical, and spiritual balance.

Because there has been research that shows Yoga can help with anxiety and stress reduction. Furthermore, when practicing Yoga, a strong focus is placed on embracing one’s current experiences, cultivating mindfulness, and not pushing the body beyond its natural boundaries. 

How Many Calories Does Ashtanga Yoga Burn?

Did you know that doing this Yoga form for an hour burns 594 calories! Ashtanga yoga is a rigorous and athletic style. As a result, it’s a great strategy to assist you in burning some calories. You’ll probably burn double as much with Ashtanga Yoga as you will with Iyengar Yoga. You’ll burn even more pounds if you do Bikram or Vinyasa.

Many people do Ashtanga Yoga to improve their strength and flexibility, but the exercises will also help you relax your mind.

Is Ashtanga Yoga For Everyone?

Anyone, with the exception of lazy individuals, may do Ashtanga Yoga, according to Pattabhi Jois. However, because not everyone seeks rigors or challenging Yoga practice, styles such as Anusara Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Jivamukti Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Yin Yoga, and others are preferred options for those seeking therapeutic benefits, gentle flow, and the ability to hold postures for extended periods of time for meditation and spiritual experience.

It is best to learn the technique from a teacher who can assess what is best for you and provide you with the appropriate asanas.

How To Practice Ashtanga Yoga At Home?

“How do I begin a home practice?” is a common query in the yoga community. Learning how to practice Yoga on your own can be a confusing, intimidating, and even nerve-wracking experience at first. Home practice is the ultimate Yogic-Experience for many people since it is genuinely and inescapably just you and yourself.

Uncertainty, laziness, irritation, and diversions are common when you don’t have an instructor to tell you what to do. Plus, there’s no way of knowing if you’ll do the appropriate thing or for how long you’re supposed to perform that “thing.” There are so many possibilities! What’s the point?

Home practice is, for one thing, a radical form of self-care. A powerful statement of self-acceptance, self-awareness, and of course, self-empowerment. 

After all, it’s usually a lot easier to follow someone else’s cues and directions than it is to come up with your own ideas. It’s human nature to doubt the validity of everything, including our own talents, and it’s sometimes easier to let someone else step in and take control of the decision-making process when there’s a lot of uncertainty.

Imagine dedicating time each day to honoring the part of you that feels deeply, to acknowledging what you know on a deep and indisputable level, and to fostering a trusting—even reverent—relationship with your body. That is the power of practicing at home.

If you can’t make it to the studio every day, starting a home practice is best to keep your practice going. If you only have a limited amount of time, you can practice wherever you like. 

To ensure that I do not miss out, I frequently rehearse at home before going to work. You can continue your practice whether traveling or on vacation.

You’re not alone if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by a posture. To learn about healthy anatomical and alignment concepts, watch lessons from a certified expert of your choice. Learning to think about the asana’s method can assist you in comprehending how it works. It can transform a sense of powerlessness into one of optimism.

“The core idea of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is to shift emphasis from posture to breath…the only thing permanent in practice is the constant focus on the breath.” And the breath is a metaphor for what is permanent in our ever-changing life—the universe, infinite consciousness, or, most of all, love.  Gregor Maehle

Wrapping Up

If you enjoy structure and desire a challenge, Ashtanga yoga is for you. The practice is consistent from day to day, and most people take years to advance a level. No matter which series you are in, the Ashtanga tradition is a practice from which you will never stop learning. Life-long Ashtanga practice is defined by the way the series complement one another and work together to create a more full and balanced practice.

Is this sufficient to answer the questions about Ashtanga yoga,” Is it making you want to give Ashtanga Yoga a try?