Ashtanga literally means 'eight limbs'.
The eight limbs of yoga are discussed in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. They are used as guidelines to live a moral, self-disciplined, meaningful and purposeful life. And they are stages that can be followed to reach the ultimate state of consciousness (the goal) in meditation.
Rather than a short-term goal, think of the eight limbs as more of a way of life. Some people may never be able to experience certain aspects of these eight limbs, but we are definitely better off and more evolved as humans if we try and incorporate these limbs into our life on a daily basis.