Table 1

Ashtang yoga: eight dimensions or limbs of yoga practice

Levels of practiceEight dimensions of yogaDescriptions
Behavioural levelYama (morality and code of conduct)Universal moral commandments like non-violence, truth are common virtues practised.
Niyama (personal conduct)Self-discipline or conduct and includes hygiene, contentment, self-study.
Physical levelAsana (yoga poses or postures)Yoga postures for maintenance and stability of body postures is emphasised as against quick repetitions in exercises. Poses held for long durations improve flexibility. Use of bodyweight as resistance for strengthening. The holding of the postures and its synchrony with breath requires mental concentration, self-discipline and will-power that contribute to mental well-being.
Pranayama (yoga breathing techniques)Yoga breathing techniques. Change in emotions causes variations in rate and intensities of breathing causing changes in the metabolism, like stress causes physical and mental ailments. Yoga breathing techniques help in being aware of every breath. Aims at controlling the mind and emotions by regulating the breath with techniques creating variations in rate, intensities and holding of breaths.
Mental levelPratyahara (withdrawal from external objects)Mental practice of withdrawal of senses, emotions, and clutter in the mind to prepare for meditation and concentration. This withdrawal bridges the physical and mental aspects during the practice of breathing exercises or yoga postures.
Dharana (concentration of mind)Mental focus on a single idea or place or object which builds the base for meditation. This is an opportunity to focus on a positive thought or idea and build affirmative mind set.
Spiritual levelDhyana (meditation)Meditation. This is a spiritual and mental practice of conscious awareness conducted in a comfortable posture.
Samadhi (state of merging of mind with the object of meditation)Spiritual practice of ultimate bliss and experiencing union with the universe.