What is Asana?

Patanjali Yoga Sutra Knowledge Sheet 81

Contd. from knowledge sheet 80

 

“Samadhisiddhirëshwarapranidhanat’’ (II Sūtra 45)

samadhi = the state of samadhi; siddhihi = attainment; ëshwarapranidhanat = by devotion to God.

“The state of samadhi is attained by devotion to God.”

 

“Sthirasukhamasanam’’ (II Sūtra 46)

sthira = steady; sukham = comfortable; asanam = posture.

“That posture which is steady and comfortable is āsana.”

 

What is āsana? Sthira sukham āsanam. That which is steady and which is comfortable is āsana. When we are comfortable we are not steady. We are not sitting erect. But when we are erect, we are so stiff. We are not comfortable. You get it? You are erect, steady and at the same time comfortable. Sthira sukham āsanam.

You know, when you are happy, you are so up and when you are unhappy, you are so down. Your mind swings up and down, up and down. You are too much excited or you put yourself down. This is called dwandwa or duality. Āsana is that which enables us to maintain the equanimity. Āsana is not just doing exercise. Whichever posture brings you comfort and stability that is āsana. Now what is comfort? You have to define this. This is a very delicate issue. What is comfort is very different for different people. Shorter your comfort zone, the more miserable you are. This is because life is vast. But you are comfortable only in a limited sphere. Then your life becomes miserable.

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Your happiness depends on the extent of your comfort zone. So āsana is something that depends on your comfort zone. If you are comfortable sitting on the chair, then that is your comfort zone. If you have to squat on the floor it is a little different. Now, if you practice sitting on the floor, if you practice to bend you limbs, use every part of your body, then you comfort zone has increased.

If you just observe a baby from the time it is born to the age of three, a baby would have done all the yoga āsanas. A baby is born with ādi-mudra and when it sleeps, it sleeps in chinmaya mudra. Have you seen babies sleep? They do not sleep with their palms open like adults. They put on chinmaya mudra. You can examine a baby anywhere  in the world whether it is Mongolia, Africa, South America, Russia, Asia everywhere, all the babies they, do yogāsanas. So you have no choice but to be a yoga expert from your birth. The āsana is only a reminder for us to reinvent, reuse those postures which we were doing in the past as baby. When your body becomes flexible, your mind also becomes lighter and flexible.

You know, there is something called the body language. If someone walks like this (with stiff and elevated shoulders), look at the body language. There is so much of ego in that person, so much stiffness that the person has never seen his /her tummy. The neck is always up. The person has never seen his/her feet. When people walk like this it shows that there is something wrong inside. They are not comfortable with people. They twist their neck and walk in some particular manner.

 

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(This is part of a series of knowledge sheets based on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's commentaries on Patanjali Yoga Sutras.)