Asana in Sanskrit translates to being seated or actually sit.
Asana forms the foundation of our Yoga ideology ranging from headstands to rubber bodies in the air.
But actually asana forms the limbs of yoga and its techniques pass on to the gateway into the Ashtanga yoga practice.
Asana is a process that effortlessly enables us to transcend our physical body and merge our consciousness with the infinite.
Previously while reading what is yoga, it was explained how Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras only writes 3 sutras about asanas (which binds our entire worldly knowledge of yoga), which reinforces the need for a healthy body to a support healthy mind. In total Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are divided in almost 200 sutras. The three sutras on asanas are discussed below.
2.46 Sthira-sukham asanam
Patanjali’s first sutra on asana glorifies steadiness and comfort. These reflect an inner state of conscious being along with overall comfortable physical experience while doing the asana. It can be described as the state of being “seated” within ourselves. It highlights how our physical body is comfortable with the mind, and the mind in turn comfortable with the body. Asana enables the body to support our expansive minds by our physical bodies and offer it protection and stability.
2.47 Prayatna Shaithilya Ananta Samapattibhyam
This sutra by Patanjali profoundly explains how perfection in asana comes when it becomes effortless to stay in that asana. Effortless performing asana with perfection lets our attention merge with the infinite.
By staying in an asana effortlessly it gives us the chance to fixate the mind on the Ananta. This beautiful harmony of physical and mental state is the key to attaining perfect asana poses. The word ‘Ananta’ means infinite, timelessly describing everything beyond growth, birth and death This state inevitably brings you limitless joy and contentment every moment. Prayatna refers to endlessly trying to achieve the perfect asana.
In this sutra, Patanjali explains how consequently, tataḥ, we are undisturbed, anabhigātaḥ, by life’s dualities, dvandva, co-relates efficiently with yoga asanas.
He speaks about the existence of the dilemma of opposites, which is understood by us and disappears in relevance too. Explains possessing the dual attributes of firmness and lightness following which we can grasp equanimity. He focuses on how to truly perfect asanas there is a focus, mainly balance, and peace between opposing extremities. There exists no pain, tensions, sufferings, or distractions. Immaculate understanding of opposites successfully leads to maintaining balance. An asana practice that shall be rigid or firm, will resist and hold on to tensions and turmoil in our bodies. On the other hand, a practice that is very relaxed lacks discipline and sloth-like in nature results in meditations turning into sleep.
In my interpretations, Yoga includes difficult asanas only to get more flexibility merely to enable us to sit comfortably for a longer time.
Physical asanas mark an important stepping stone for preparing our body to perform meditation and breathing exercises like pranayama.
The physical forms of asana contribute to the enhancement of strength and muscles in Hatha Yoga.
Hence asanas derive lots of inspiration symbolically from animals for example:
- Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana
- Swan Pose – Hamsasana
- Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
- Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
- Camel Pose – Ustrasana
- Butterfly Pose – Badhakonasana
- Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana
- Fish Pose – Matsyasana
- Eagle Pose – Garudasana
- Cow Face Pose – Gomukhasana
Mastering an asana means gaining the ability to sit comfortably in that position for long periods of time. Hence here at our one month Teacher Training Course we emphasize ideally on performing all basic forms of asanas before we gradually introduce complex ones.
The essence of Patanjali’s text is constantly ignited in our practice and we aspire to hold on genuinely to the practice of yoga.