Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Theory of Asana Practice

Yoga = reaching for something higher - something that was once out of reach - but that through the practice of yoga becomes reachable

asana = posture
- from the sanskrit root - "to stay", "to be", "to sit", "to be established in a particular position."

Asanas have two important qualities:

1. sthira - steadiness and alertness
2. sukha - the ability to remain comfortable in a posture

This principle of yoga is fulfilled only when we have practiced a particular asana for a certain period of time and feel alert and unstressed as we practice it.

"Sthira sukham asanam" (patanjali)

The asana is a position of comfort and stability

From Hathayogapradipika:

Asana is the first of the various tools.
Practice of asana will bestow the person with various things - 3 benefits:

1. sthairyam - because of something happening in the body it goes to the mind.
Firmness in the body leads to firmness in mind (hence hyperactivity is reduced - one of the gunas).
The gunas all feed into our way of being and all are necessary to be at peace/functional in life.

2. angalagharam - light (meaning opposite of heavy)

Removing tamas (heaviness/dullness) - Tamas is what gives you the ability to sleep.

3. Arogyam - healthy (very general) - a feeling of well-being in the body-mind relationship. Again the consequences are felt in the mind.
(sattva -s much deeper)

With asanas - everything revolves around the spine.

Pascimatasana (forward bend)
- when you bend forward the impurities are taken up to the fire (agni)

Purvatana (back bend) - fire brought toward the impurities

Patanjali talks of "malas" as a covering of ignorance over your "good"/eternal knowledge

Headstand - pinnacle of postures - fire is taken up, impurities brought down , blodd pressures drops, oxygen goes to head

Vinyasa Krama - a correctly organized course of asanas progressing appropriately towards a desired goal

Breathing in Postures

Breathing is intrinsic to asana practice
Conscious breathing helps to improve the posture
- increased awareness of body and mind comes + drastic reduces the chances of injury
Breath also indicates whether sthira (firmness) and sukha (comfort) are being attained.


Inhale - ribs expand - chest expands - spine moves slightly back, diaphragm moves goes down
Exhale - ribs contract/chest contracts - spine moves to a straight position, diaphragm goes up

Figuring out the right relationship between the breath and posture is often done using the spine as a yardstick

Purpose of asanas - 1. alignment of body, chakras
2. removal of impurities
3. as an experience - body-breath-mind

Vinyasa krama - to place the various postures in an intelligent order


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