What’s an Asana?

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Modern Postural Yoga

Modern postural yoga is commonly understood as a sequence of postures, sometimes in flow, that sort of stretch and exercise the body and help you feel good.

The proper title for what people most commonly think of as a posture or a pose in yoga is an ‘asana’.

So what’s an asana?, It’s a useful place to begin with what Asana isn’t…

  • It’s not making a random shape.
  • It’s not another way of looking good naked.
  • Definitely not some form of Hindu aerobics.
  • No, it’s not ethnic gymnastics.
  • It’s not about stretching, though sometimes thats a therapeutic thing to do if someone is super tight in some areas. Over stretching causes lots of problems in the body.
  • Not about getting fit, you’ll get structural and fascial fitness from a good physical practice but not cardio fitness.
  • Not about getting strong, though this can be an important side effect.
  • Not just about feeling good, though of course this is wonderful.
  • if this approach is all you’re getting then maybe start to look a little deeper?

All the above – feeling good, looking good, strength, flexibility, neurochemical bliss, healing, relaxation and a profound sense of wellbeing, are all simply side effects of a good practice.

The endorphin and dopamine (neurotransmitters) buzz from a strong yoga asana practice is not what defines the practice. It can get you started in practice and can sustain you for a while, these biochemicals slowly reduce through time and you have to find deeper reasons to practice.

So what might Asana be?

  • Asana literally means ‘seat’. It’s the same Indo-European word root that gives us the English word ‘arse’, that which you sit on.
  • Each ‘seat’ you inhabit is also a geometric play of energy, a place of meditative awareness and an arrangement of the flesh, breath, life energy and mind that encourages particular psycho-emotional experiences to arise.
  • Asana is also a form of preventative medicine, an aspect of intelligent flow medicine that keeps one free of dis-ease, and the primary cause of disease, which is the stress ridden experience of separateness. As a result, with a good practice one rests more easily in radiant health.
  • Each asana you inhabit is a play of energy in opposition and its conscious unification from which arises the possibility of deep stilling of the mind. Each seat has a particular energetic teaching to offer in this respect.
  • Each asana has the qualities of grounded stability and deep ease. These arise through development in the progressive stages of practice.
  • Each asana, from a neuro-physiological view switches on the intelligence of the body and awakens the body as living neurology. We become embodied awareness.
  • The awakened body is fully conscious, rippling with awareness and the vehicle of realised consciousness.
  • Realised consciousness is the function and outcome of a good yogic practice.

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