ASANAS - Physical Postures
"Asanas purify the body and mind and have preventive and curative effects. [Yoga Postures] are innumerable, catering to the various needs of the muscular, digestive, gladular, nervous and other systems of the body."
The physical aspect of yoga is the third step on the path to freedom, and if we’re being honest, the word asana here doesn’t refer to the ability to perform a handstand or an aesthetically impressive backbend, it means ‘seat’ - specifically the seat you would take for the practice of meditation. The only alignment instruction Patanjali (ancient sage and author of the Yoga Sutras written about 4000 years ago) gives for this asana is “sthira sukham asanam”, the posture should be steady and comfortable.
While traditional texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika list many postures such as Padmasana (lotus pose) and Virasana(hero 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’.
The idea is to be 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 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?”
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