The word Ashtanga means eight branches in Sanskrit. Eight parts
that constitutes a yogic practice. One of the foundational
texts of yoga is Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, that describes what yoga
is - both practically and philosophically. Simply put, one can say
that the goal of yoga is to quieten the activities of the mind, and
reach a conscious, peaceful state in ourselves. In Sanskrit, this
is known as Samadhi.
The Yoga Sutras speak of an eightfolded path to reach Samadhi,
where the physical positions, or asanas, are only one branch. More
over Patanjali speaks of Yamas and Niyamas, our attitudes towards
others and ourselves, about breathing and deeper forms of
concentration and meditation. Each branch consists of different
principles and tools for us to study. There are various forms of
yoga that emphazises different branches.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said that we need a strong and healthy body
in order to move on to the other branches, those that bring us
deeper into ourselves. Therefore, in Ashtanga Yoga, we start with
practicing asanas - movements.
The eight branches are:
Yama - 5 moral, ethical principles or
Niyama - 5 principles of self-study and
Asana - physical movements, body
Pranayama - breathing exercises, breath
Pratyahara - to direct their minds
inward. To control their minds.
Dharana - concentration.
Dhyana - meditation.
Samadhi - The highest state of yoga. A
state of calmness, happiness, freedom and deep faith.