Asana is the third limb in Patanjali’s 8 Limbed Path to Yoga. It is what is generally thought of when people talk about “doing yoga.” It is the postures, the actual movement of Asana.
Indeed, it is a big part of the practice of yoga but as we’ve already discovered in our discussions around the Yama and the Niyama, the first two limbs of yoga, it is not all yoga is about by any means.
We often hear “I don’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough,” or “I can’t do yoga because I can’t touch my toes.” Not only does this reduce yoga to being nothing more than a physical practice expected at a certain level, it prevents so many from experiencing the benefits of a full yoga practice. A practice that is attainable for anyone (yes, anyone) and everyone.
Yoga is for every body and is not about touching your toes or fancy Instagram poses meant to garner attention instead of inspiring the masses.
When you take a yoga class, you are more or less taking an Asana class. The teacher probably brings a few teachings around the Yama and the Niyama into the mix, and certainly, they speak to us about Pranayama (our breath practice), but the bulk of the class is spent on leading us through guided Asana. The rest of our yoga practice is left to us to lead off our mats.
By now, most of us are aware of the fact that mind and body are connected. As such, we work the body so the mind has a healthy place live. If we work just one or the other, we cannot achieve the full benefits of our yoga practice in daily life. Mind and body both must be equally strong and balanced.
Thinking destructive thoughts, participating in gossip and judgment, negative attitudes and the like will adversely affect the health of our bodies just as aching bodies, an unhealthy diet, and too much weight can negatively affect our minds.
From a physical aspect, asana is about finding that balance between comfort in a pose and the challenge of growth. Don’t push to the point of pain, but also stay present with the opportunity for growth and expansion in a pose (and in life).
Our bodies are always in the present moment, no matter how far into the past or the future our minds wander. Stay present with your body, breath, and the asana movement. The benefits of doing so will follow. By staying present with your body and breath the mind will automatically quiet.
When the body has been moved and challenged, the mind clears and they both relax.
Think about how good you feel after a yoga (asana) class—you practically float to your car, ready to take on the rest of your day energized and happy or to close out your day relaxed and at peace.
The physical movement and alignment of Asana is essential to the mental alignment and health of the mind.
Our bodies cannot reach their ultimate state unless our mind is also healthy and vice versa.