There are 8 limbs to a full Yoga practice. Each limb is a complete discipline and a life long journey of learning.
The 8 limbs are; Yama, Niyama, Ãsana, Prãnayãma, Pratyãhãra, Dhãrana, Dhyãna and Samadhi. In this article we’ll look at Ãsana.
Ãsana is probably the form of Yoga that is the most familiar to those who live in the Western world. It is the physical practice that a lot of people would define as Yoga. It is what often attracts people to the practice first.
Ãsana practice is one part of the 8 limbs limbs of Yoga, it’s a physical posture practice. Within this area there are many forms of ãsana practices, each one with a different intention. That is why there are so many different types of Yoga classes. Your intention will dictate what type of physical ãsana practice you do.
The word ãsana can mean to take a seat or a position that is steady and comfortable. Try to remember this when you practice. A lot of the time your ego will drive you to forget this – you end up trying to ‘nail a posture’, or berate yourself for not being flexible enough, not strong enough, not good enough, not enough enough. This is not Yoga – this is your Ego. You end up practicing judgement and harsh words instead of the actual ãsana practice to respect and to cultivate union in your body and mind. This is Yoga.
Ãsana has come to also mean a series of postures in the physical practice of Yoga. The word turns up in many of the posture names, indicating that you should try to find your own inner and outer balance in the posture. The ãsana are the vehicle for the yoga practitioner to move within themselves.
Your practice, your Yoga, your intention and your reflections.
The process of the ãsana practice helps to quieten the mind. Each pose has different ways to challenge the practitioner, physically, mentally and emotionally.
The function of your ãsana practice is to prepare your body and your mind to sit for meditation practice.
With ãsana practice, the fluctuating activations of the mind can settle and allow the practitioner to become more open and aware of quieter mind states that are already present.
When you see a Yoga practitioner at ease within their posture or you experience it in your own practice – that is Yoga. There is a stillness, a quietness to the energy of the pose, the stillness within the movement.
As a society in the West, the practice of Yoga is misinterpreted with our “goal oriented” tendencies.
We get caught up in the achievement element of it and judge ourselves accordingly. Yoga is not about how flexible you are or what you can do.
While it is good to strive to improve and master a pose, the Yoga is happening on the inside – when you notice your habits and judgements to the obstacles that the pose presents to you.
Once you master a pose – there is always another one to challenge you.
This is true of life and how you react on your mat, is often with the same attitude that you have in your life. Your Yoga can inform and educate you about your reactions and tendencies. Yoga can cultivate equanimity and balance in your life – on and off the mat.
Each limb of Yoga prepares you for the next one. The physical practice helps to settle the agitated, wandering mind in preparation for a seated practice.
All 8 limbs of Yoga offer a lifelong path of learning and practice.
To have a full Yoga practice all 8 limbs will be incorporated into your life.
So what does Going to Yoga mean? Your Yoga is where you are, not just on the mat.
Food for thought…
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