What is Asana?
Asana is a comfortable and steady pose (taken from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali)
Asana is the Sanskrit term for a seated posture but more generally in Western Hatha yoga classes’ asana means posture. By practising asanas regularly the postures can help us to become flexible and strong.
In the Hath Yoga Pradpika (HYP) one of the earliest yoga text, Goraksanath writes “Asanas are treated of in the first place as they form the first stage of Hatha Yoga and asana make one firm, free from diseases and light of limb.”
Purpose of Asana
Asana is just the first stage on the path to Raja Yoga. By allowing the body to be strong, firm and flexible, the mind can also become firm strong and flexible too. Asana facilitates concentration.
Benefits and effects of Asana
The aim is for the student to be eventually meditate without distraction as the body will be strong and flexible enough to sit for long periods. The purpose of yoga is to develop the union of the mind, body and soul through practise and asana is the very first step on this journey. It is why many yoga students are introduced to asana first and most yoga books begin with a section about asana.
It has been claimed in classical text that asana can offer the following benefits
- To remain physically and mentally steady, calm, quiet and comfortable
- To allow practitioners to develop a stable foundation from which to explore deeper yoga practises
Regular practise of asana may have the following effects
- Increased feeling of vitality and strength
- Feeling balanced, light and joyful with increased awareness
- Better ability to relax, concentrate and meditate
- More effective digestion and improved general body muscles tone
There is a big difference between yoga and general keep fit exercise. Muscle tone through cardio-vascular work is encouraged by keep fit exercise. In yoga, asana may help to keep the body toned but are also a wholly balanced way of exercising the body, mind and soul.
As a British Wheel of Yoga teacher my lesson plans are created using asana as part of the class and will accommodate individuals needs within the plan, this is why some yoga classes will use strong, dynamic asana while other class may have gentle posture work and more sequences. It is worth remembering that although strong postures are hard work they are not always the most powerful.
More often the subtle a practise – the more powerful it is.
In my yoga classes I will use a counterpose as part of the asana sequence to help provide realignment from a less than perfect posture, however a counterpose is not always necessary especially when an asana is performed for therapeutic reasons.
Precautions and prohibitions for Asana practice
Certain asana’s are not suitable for everyone, especially if the participant has a pre-existing medical condition. Other asana’s can be offered with a precaution or a modification to suit certain aliments. Please ensure that you let me know before participating and ensure that your health questionnaire is up to date.
Anything that makes us stiff can also break us… And, only if we are supple we will never break? – Sri Swami Satchidananda translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.