Part 3: Asana
As discussed in the Introduction post, this series will explore the eight-fold path of yoga philosophy. So far we have discussed the Definition of yoga, the Yamas (codes of restraints / universal morality), and the Niyamas (practices of self-training). Today we will discuss Asana (postures).
THE EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA:
1. Yama : Universal morality
2. Niyama : Personal observances
3. Asanas : Body postures (today’s focus)
4. Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
5. Pratyahara : Control of the senses
6. Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
8. Samadhi : Union with the Divine
What is Asana?
The word Asana is literally translated into sitting position.
However, in modern times, it more often used to describe yoga postures.
In fact, this is probably the most most recognizable part of yoga in the West – If you have ever attended a yoga class, you have done Asana! Most yoga classes have a series of physical postures in a specific sequence created by the teacher, usually to music, that lasts about one hour. You can find yoga classes everywhere – gyms, yoga studios, martial arts studios, outdoors, at big events.
Interestingly, yoga postures (Asana) were actually originally developed as positions to be used for sitting meditations that could be held for long periods of time, which promoted stillness and inner reflection.
In the eight-limb path created by Patanjali, the physical postures are used as a method of self-study and exploration. It is estimated that there are actually thousands of postures, ranging from simple relaxing postures meant to calm the nervous system all the way to complex postures that are meant to push the yogi’s body.
In the modern world, however, Asana has transformed into more of a physical practice or exercise, one that has become very popular in America in recent years!
Why do yoga postures (asana)?
Yoga postures are an excellent way to de-stress and incorporate movement into your daily routine.
There are many benefits from practicing these yoga postures regularly, some of which include:
- Improved flexibility, strength, and balance
- Creation of more muscle tone
- Feelings of rejuvenation
- Reduction of stress and anxiety
- Increased energy
- Improvement of physical and emotional health
- Improvement in sleep
- Improvement in circulation
- Bring harmony into mind, body, and spirit
- Improvement in self-awareness
- Feelings of peace and happiness
And here are a few tips on how to get the most out of the yoga postures:
- Avoid eating for about 2 hours before class (it is best to practice on an empty stomach)
- Avoid pushing your body to the point of trembling. Do not do a posture if it causes any pain.
- Breath should be controlled and move with the postures.
- Listen to your body – you are doing these postures to heal and stimulate your body, don’t do anything that doesn’t sound right or doesn’t work for you at that time.
If you are new to yoga postures, I always recommend trying a Beginner class at your local studio so that you can learn proper form. I also recommend trying different kinds of classes – there are many styles out there, all beneficial in some way…you just have to find the right fit for your personality and body. So test them out and enjoy!
Skip ahead to What is Yoga: Part 4 HERE