Ashtanga means eight limbs, which comprises of Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. Each limb is very essential and complete. According to Lord Patanjali if these limbs are practiced dedicatedly under the guidance of traditional and authentic teacher, yoga can cure or lessen our physical, mental, moral and spiritual sufferings, his wisdom radiates in glory.
Yama: Self restraint, they are Ahimsa (Non- Violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-Stealing), Brahmacharya(Celibacy), Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness).
If one follows Yama systematically, one develops a relationship of affection and compassion for all living beings. This attitude of perceiving all living beings with total equality is essential for the welfare of the society.
Niyama: Fixed observance, they are, Shaucha (purity), Santosha (content), Tapas (austerity), Swadhyaya (self study), Ishwara pranidhana (surrendering to lord). If one follows them systematically, then riots, anger, hatred and aversion will slowly disappear from the society.
Asana: Means posture, which brings steadiness in body and mind, and removes duality. Asana practice renders correct blood circulation. The ligaments and various parts of the body will function at the perfect, ultimate level. According to Guruji Sri K Pattabhi Jois “To bring the body and sense organs under control, the asanas, or postures, should first be studied and practiced”.
Pranayama: Regulating the life force, physically the breath. To practice pranayama, certain level of competency should be developed in asana practice, which will be evaluated by teacher.
Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama are considered as (Bahiranga Yoga) external practices.
Pratyahara: Withdrawal of senses from its objects. Which means to bring the senses under control and to keep them from wandering as they wish.
Dharana: The act of concentration. This is very important step to achieve ekagrata (one – pointedness) of the mind. When mind is controlled the senses to follow it.
Samadhi: Complete absorption
Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are (antaranga yoga) internal practices.
Mere practice of rituals and debates on yoga topics wont give any result, only Abhyasa(dedicated practice) is the method through which one gets yoga sadhana. The obstacles in the practice of yoga are sleep, laziness and disease. One has to remove these by the root and throw them away in order to keep the yoga practice regular and continuous.