Ashtanga Yoga
   Ashtanga (eight-limbed) Yoga is the system devised by PATANJALI, author of the YOGA SUTRA. As the name implies, eight practices are involved, divided into two groups. The five outer practices are YAMA, niyama, ASANA, PRANAYAMA, and pratya-hara; the three inward-oriented practices are dha-rana, dhyana, and SAMADHI.
   Ashtanga Yoga involved a sitting yoga, some-times called raja yoga, focused on the breath. As one watched the breath, one developed ways of concentrating and eventually controlling the mind. The ultimate goal, as in all yogas, was lib-eration from birth and rebirth, but in the practice of Patanjali, the specific effort was to free the self (PURUSHA) from its false attachment to the phe-nomenal world, or PRAKRITI.
   ASANAS, or postures, play a central role in the systems of Ashtanga Yoga that are disseminated today, but in the Yoga Sutras themselves, “sitting,” or “asana” is simply one of the eight “limbs.” Many of the postures known today may have been later additions to the practice or may have devel-oped through separate practices that later merged with the Patanjali school. There are strong resem-blances between the practices found in Patanjali and those of the Buddhist Pali canon, although the practice postures were never an important component in Buddhism.
   Further reading: S. N. Dasgupta, The History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 1, The Kapila and the Patanjaal Samkhya (Yoga) (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975); Mircea Eliade, Yoga, Immortality and Freedom. Translated from the French by Willard R. Trask, Bollingen Series 56 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973); Georg Feuerstein, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (Roch-ester, Vt.: Inner Traditions International, 1989); K. S. Iyengar, Light on Yog: Yoga Pradipika (Boston: Unwin Paperbacks, 1979); Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Mala (New York: North Point Press, 2002); Ian Whicher, The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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