Ashtanga Yoga, which means “eight-limbed yoga”, aims to cleanse both mind and body. This can be done through the eight spiritual practices: yama or moral codes, niyama or self purification and study, asana or posture, pranayama or breath control, pratyahara or sense control, dharana or concentration, dhyana or meditation, and samadhi or contemplation.
The eight "limbs" or steps prescribed in the second pada of the Yoga Sutras are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana,Dhyana and Samadhi.
Ashtanga yoga consists of the following levels:
- Yama refers to the five abstentions
- Niyama refers to the five observances
- Asana: Posture of the body, especially perfect posture for meditation.
- Pranayama: Control of prana ('life force') or vital breath
- Pratyahara: withdrawal of the mind, defined by Vyasa as "that by which the senses do not come into contact with their objects and, as it were, follow the nature of the mind."
- Dharana: Fixing the attention on a single object; concentration
- Dhyana: Meditation
- Samadhi:Oneness with Brahman or a super-conscious state