Contemporary Yoga In Relation To The Classic Ashtanga Yoga
Maharshi Pathanjali, an adept who is known to have written the famous Yoga aphorisms(The Yoga Sutras of Pathanjali), which concisely describe the path and experiences of Yoga. Pathanjali describes constant practice and detachment as the means of Yoga. However, Pathanjali states that this practice becomes firmly established when properly and consistently attended to over a long period of time. The obvious question now is What to practice? For this, Pathanjali describes the Ashtanga Yoga (the 8 limbed path to Yoga) which serves to prepare us for the experience of Yoga (Self realization).
The eight limbs of Yoga are:
1. Yama - restraints
Non violence (absence of desire to kill or injure )
Truthfulness and sincerity
2.Niyama - observances
Self surrender or surrender to lord
3.Asana - postures
4.Pranayama - breath regulation
5.Pratyahara - control and withdrawal of senses
6.Dharana - concentration with effort
7.Dhyana - meditation or concentration without effort
8.Samadhi - cognitive absorption.
The first 6 steps are to be practiced constantly over a long period of time. The last two steps happen on their own. The Yama and Niyama are for training the mind for Yoga.
Pathanjali does not emphasize any particular techniques for Postures, Breath control and Meditation as they require guidance from a teacher. This is where we resort to Hatha Yoga classes wherein the postures and breathing techniques are described in great detail. Contemporary schools of Yoga like Ashtanga Vinyasa, Iyengar, Power Yoga etc also teach various postures and breathing techniques. One is free to follow any school, but the most important thing to do is constant practice over a long period of time. One cannot ignore any of the first six limbs if one is seriously pursuing Yoga; just practicing postures is not enough in Yoga.
In modern Yoga there is hardly any emphasis given to detachment. Yoga today has become attached to performance or achievement of various states, especially in schools of Hatha Yoga. When practiced with attachment, the practice does not become a spiritual practice; it just becomes an exercise to make you physically fit. Therefore, it is very important to do the practices with a feeling of detachment, and with an open mind. Through the constant practice of detachment, the causes of our suffering will also eventually be eradicated.
Thus it is only through constant practice and detachment that we can progress in the journey of/to Yoga, irrespective of what school of practice we resort to.