Asana or the physical posture, that's what yoga is all about right?
Wrong! This week we will explore the third limb of ashtanga yoga being the physical postures. We will discover why we go through the sequence of postures in the order we do and what it's all for. Read on to discover more...
The physical aspect of yoga is the third step on the path to freedom. The word asana here doesn’t refer to the ability to perform a handstand or an aesthetically impressive backbend like you se all these flexible bendy folk do on Instagram, it actually means ‘seat’ - specifically the seat you would take for the practice of meditation.
The only alignment instruction Patanjali gives for this asana is “sthira sukham asanam”, (pronounced sttteeeer-ah soook -haaam assssan-ham) the posture should be an easy and comfortable seat.
While traditional texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (pronounced Haaa-htha Yoga Praaa-dip-ik-haa - since you asked!) list many postures such as Padmasana (lotus pose) suitable for meditation, this text also tells us that the most important posture is, in fact, sthirasukhasana – meaning, ‘a posture the practitioner can hold comfortably and motionlessness’. As you will notice, it is not a million miles away from what Patanjali said.
The idea of moving through the sequence of postures ids to cleanse each part of the body and end up being able to sit in comfort so we’re not ‘pulled’ by aches and pains of the body, or restlessness due to an uncomfortable position.
Perhaps this 'shire sukham asana' is something to consider in your next yoga class if you always tend to choose the ‘advanced’ posture offered, rather than the one your body is able to attain: “In how many poses are we really comfortable and steady?” Leave your ego at the door next time you enter your yoga class and do what is comfortable in your own body.