By Sanjeev Patel, CYT
What is the purpose or value of asana? Many Yoga teachers do not read or understand the writings of Maharishi Patanjali. This leads to the erroneous assumption that asana is just a physical exercise to improve circulation, increase bone density, and develop good muscle tone.
Yoga asana is the third of eight limbs, as described by Maharishi Patanjali, on the path of Raja Yoga. Although, in this context, it is the action of making the body steady for the higher techniques of pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and the culmination of samadhi (cosmic realization).
In Hatha Yoga, which is more deeply concerned with preparing the body for higher spiritual techniques, the great importance asanas have is attached to purifying the body. Yoga asanas are described, in much detail, in such ancient texts, as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita.
Although asanas, in themselves, may not give spiritual realization, they are a stage on the spiritual path. Some people have the mistaken idea that asanas are only physical, and have no connection, or use, in treading the spiritual path. This is a completely wrong concept. Yoga Asanas are almost a necessity for spiritual aspirants, to awaken their physical faculties.
For aspirants to awaken spiritual beauty from within, they may have to re-discover their physical body in a discipline, such as Hatha Yoga. This does not mean everyone who practices Yoga will have their faith shaken. Yoga will awaken pure spiritual growth, regardless of your religion.
Yoga Asanas should be regarded as forms of moving meditation and psychic purification. All asanas should be performed with awareness of the corresponding centers, integrated into the practice. Interns, and instructors, should be taught the purpose of asana during a 200-hour Yoga teacher training course.
According to tradition and the scriptures, Lord Shiva is the founder of Yoga. He created all the asanas (about 8,400,000) and taught them to his first disciple, Parvati. Of these, only eighty-four are discussed in detail, and only thirty-two are commonly thought of as being useful to modern man.
Each physical style of Yoga has a system, or methodical approach, to the asanas. The Gurus and ancient Yogis have designed these systems with a purpose in mind, so it is a good idea to find a system that works for us and stick to it.
A common denominator to the practice of Hatha Yoga is that there are six groups of poses one must incorporate to achieve the balance and health of the body. These groups of poses are: Side Bends, Forward Bends, Backbends, Twists, Inverted, and Balance Poses.
© Copyright 2010 – Sanjeev Patel / Aura Publications
Sanjeev Patel is a certified Yoga teacher and an exclusive author for Aura Wellness Center.
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