It is a branch of yoga which literally means the 8 limbed yoga, which is the 8 spiritual practices in yoga practice, including:
Yama (attitude towards others and the world around you)
Niyama (attitude towards yourself and how to treat yourself)
Asana (steady and comfortable postures)
Pranayama (regulation of breath)
Pratyhara (sense withdrawal from respective objects)
Dharana (concentration of mind)
Samadhi (union with the universe, total balance of mind)
The practice follows a sequence of asanas starting from Sun Salutation, standing postures, forward folds, twists and arm balances, back bends, inversion and finally lotus pose and savasana (corpse pose) for relaxation. It is kind of physical demanding, some poses are super challenging for beginners, especially those in forward folds that requires a very flexible body to achieve the pose.
Practising yoga should not be suffering, so accept and respect our body limits, don’t feel ashamed or distressed, it is not a competition nor performance! Just do it the correct and safe way, and keep practicing you can feel the improvement!
From the 8 limbs, we can see that Ashtanga yoga is a lot more than just stretching the body. By following some principals of life, then apply them into your physical practices and breathing and meditation techniques, you can achieve a more clear and brighter state of mind!
Being a Christian, I don’t see yoga contradicting with my belief, as I still acknowledge Jesus as my Saviour, and by practicing yoga I can really see the light and direction God is leading me to. During meditation, I think of how grateful God has done to my life, and I look forward to reunite with Him in Heaven after this temporary life. I DON’T BELIEVE in reincarnation!! Think it this way, if our lives are RECYCLED all the time, it is a MISERY that we couldn’t come out from the cycle…If we have a HOPE that after we die, we can have eternal life with God in Heaven, it is a much happier way to interpret the story, right?
Thanks to yoga practice, I can see that my life is more than a “disciplined Christian” but to embrace other cultures and try to bring Christ resurrection into their lives!