Ashtanga Yoga (also Raja Yoga) represents a meaningful lifestyle with the objective of enlightenment, that consists of 8 different parts building up on one another. “Ashtanga, in Sanskrit, means “eight parts”. Starting out with the basic rules of the code of conduct, it furhter includes various exercises and breathing techniques, and finishes in the withdrawal of the senses, the concentration, meditation, and enlightenment and self-fulfillment. These 8 parts are the following in that order:

  1. Yama – the social code of conduct, the abstinence
  2. Niyama – the personal code of conduct,
  3. Asana – the merger of body and mind through Yoga exercises (Asanas)
  4. Pranayama – the expansion of life force, the merger of body and mind through breathing
  5. Pratyahara – the withdrawal (disconnection) of the senses from the outside world
  6. Dharana – the concentration on one single point
  7. Dhyana – the meditation or contemplation
  8. Samadhi – the superconsciousness (enlightenment, self-fulfillment), total equality

 

The first 5 parts of the Ashtanga Yoga can also be referred to as Bahiranga Yoga what focuses on the exterior world. The last 3 parts refer to Antaranga Yoga what focuses on the interior, the essential world. The fifth part (Pratyahara) can be seen as transition between the exterior and the interior world and sometimes is also treated as internal level. The better we are able to perform the first (external) parts, the easier we can practise the final stages accordingly.