Why Do We Practise Asana?


A strong focus on asana (the physical poses) defines most western Yoga, and it is an increasingly popular practice — probably because it makes us feel good! But what’s really going on and how do we explain it in Yoga terms? After all, there’s more to Yoga than asana. Why do we choose to spend time on our sticky mats in class rather than practicing other forms of Yoga like Bhakti Yoga, chanting or some type of meditation?

One way I like to think about it is that it’s a practice of ‘embodiment’, of getting back into our bodies. In modern life we spend so much time living in our heads (or on our computers and gadgets) that many of us have become estranged from our bodies. We force ourselves to sit still for long periods of time in an office, we wear constraining shoes and clothes, we eat and drink substances that keep us awake artificially, and we distract ourselves with social media and TV. This is the world we live in.

C&A01In Yogic terms our bodies are the storehouses of past behaviours, habits and tensions. We hold emotions and stresses in our muscles and our joints; think tight hips and tense shoulders maybe. This is one aspect of the concept of karma, where all thoughts and actions have a consequence. Living in our heads doesn’t help us resolve these tensions — but physical movement can. As we move our bodies, we work through the tensions and blocks we all hold. Our bodily systems, like blood, airways, hormones begin to work more efficiently. We bring our mind and our body into alignment, as we focus on our momentary physical experience and turn our attention inward to cultivate what Patanjali calls sthira sukham asanam (a comfortable and steady pose).

Through the movement and stillness of Yoga and focus on the breath, we can liberate ourselves from the tensions that have built up and gradually we can liberate ourselves from social conventions and the expectations of others. Once we are comfortable in the poses we are free (or have the space) to explore who we really are. When we have the space to explore this perhaps, with practice, we might eventually find enlightenment!

And then we must choose what use to make of the joy, peace and freedom that our asana practice might bring to us.

By Alessandro 

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Alessandro teaches:
Jivamukti Vinyasa Yoga on Tuesdays at 18.45
Lotus Flow Vinyasa on Thursdays at 17.45
Advanced Level Lotus Flow Vinyasa on Thursdays at 19.15
Vinyasa Yoga on Fridays at 07.00 
Hot Power Yoga on Fridays at 10.00
Vinyasa Yoga (120mins) on Sundays at 09.30

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