We often use the word ‘yoga’ to mean ‘yoga asana’. Most people think of yoga as an act that contorts the body into a human pretzel. However, yoga is much more than just asana. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, regarding the practice of yoga, reflect this distinction clearly. Only three of the 196 sutras (aphorisms) in Patanjali talk about postures (asanas). This means that yoga encompasses much more than just physical exercise.
People across the world are also gradually waking up to this realization. Poonam from Mumbai shares how a session of Art of Living Yoga transformed her outlook towards this practice. “I was averse to yoga, thinking it was only an exercise and physical exertion. During a Part-2 Course, the morning yoga sessions were wonderful. It was then that I came to see that it is beyond exercise and postures: a dance, a calm rhythm. And the best part was the Shavasana (Corpse pose), ending in complete relaxation/meditation.
Quick tips to move beyond asanas
- Use specific rhythms of the breath while moving in and out of asanas
- Coordinate your asanas with attention or awareness. While lifting your arms, every inch of the way be fully aware that you are lifting your arms up.
- Move from one posture to another posture in slow motion practice; enjoy it like a dance.
- Wrap up your yoga practice with yoga nidra followed by meditation
Get the yogic attitude and go beyond yoga asanas
The objective of doing yoga asanas and practices is not just to stay fit and keep the body in shape. They are a vital tool to bring the body, breath, and mind together in harmony. How?
Let’s try this now…
- Breathing out, bring your chin to touch the chest.
- Breathing in, gently roll your head to the right shoulder and back.
- Breathing out, gently roll your head to the left shoulder and bring your chin to the chest.
- Repeat this three times in clockwise and then anti-clockwise direction.
Where do you feel the stretch: at the neck, shoulder, or back? It is not necessary to do pretzel-like postures or stand on your head to experience the benefits of yoga. Even a simple neck roll, done with complete awareness and a little attention on the breath, can lead you to that blissful experience!
Using specific rhythms of the breath, moving in and moving out of the asana, links the breath and the body; keeping attention on where the stretch is happening links the mind. While you were doing this simple head roll, did you worry about the past or the future, about what you will have for lunch or dinner, or about wanting a flat stomach? These are all things in the past or in the future; they are not here right now.
Union of the body, breath, and mind helps you live in the present moment – appreciate and live each moment completely. This is the true essence of yoga.