Yogasana (Yog + Asana)

स्थिर सुखमासनम् ।
Sthira sukham asanam.

-Patanjali Yoga Sutra II:46

This aphorism gives us an idea about the main characteristic feature of asana. It says, asana is that which contributes to stability and comfort. Here stability does not mean the stability of body only but the stability of both the body and mind. Even if we remain stable in asana, we may remain mentally unstable due to various disturbing sensory inputs. Only the stability of both the body and the mind together would lead us to the sense of well-being.

It also does not mean that any position or posture of the body which is easy to attain and comfortable to maintain stably, is an asana. In that case perhaps sleeping (recumbent) position would have been the best asana, being easiest and most stable one. Since the word asana is related more with the sitting condition and also with the stability as well as the feeling of well-being it indicates the conscious state of the individual and not the sleeping condition. Therefore any postural pattern, particularly in a sitting condition, leading towards physical and mental stability as well as a sense of well being is an asana.

Asana is often transalated as posture. Even though Asana is not simply a posture, it is more then that - how it is acquired and controlled. Standing posture, sitting posture and a recumbent (lying) posture are three basic postures, characteric of human being, developed during the evolution.

We can also acquire certain basic psoture of animals and birds, because of our motor skills. By assuming such postures voluntarily, we may activate certain special area or the sub-cortical brain centers of coordination.

Aim and objective of Asana

किरात तदासनम् स्थैर्यम् आरोग्यं चांगलाघवम् |
Kurvat tadasana sthairyam arogyam changalaghavam.

-Hathapradipika I:17

By practicing asanas the stability, health and suppleness be achieved. In nutshell we can say that,

  1. Main objective of asanas is to promote and maintain health. They reestablish a harmonious functioning body and mind as one integrated whole. This reduces strain and tensions arising out of interaction wi external disturbances.
  2. To overcome the internal disturbances like tremor instability by recondit the psycho-physiological mechanisms and to prepa for higher yogic practices like dhyana.
  3. To bring about equilibrium in overall functions emotional, behavioral and perceptual level.

General Guidelines for Yoga Practice
Yoga practitioner should follow the guiding principles given below while performing Yogic practices:

    • Śauca means cleanliness - an important prerequisite for Yoga practice. It includes cleanliness of surroundings, body and mind.
    • Yoga practice should be performed in a calm and quiet atmosphere with a relaxed body and mind.
    • Yoga practice should be done on an empty stomach or light stomach. Consume small amount of honey in lukewarm water if you feel weak.
    • Bladder and bowels should be empty before starting Yogic practices.
    • A mattress, Yoga mat, durrie or folded blanket should be used for the practice.
    • Light and comfortable cotton clothes are preferred to facilitate easy movement of the body.
    • Yoga should not be performed in a state of exhaustion, illness, in a hurry or in an acute stress conditions.
    • In case of chronic disease/ pain/ cardiac problems, a physician or a Yoga therapist should be consulted prior to performing Yogic practices.
    • Yoga experts should be consulted before doing Yogic practices during pregnancy and menstruation.

    • Practice sessions should start with a prayer or an invocation as it creates a conducive environment to relax the mind.
    • Yogic practices shall be performed slowly, in a relaxed manner, with awareness of the body and breath.
    • Do not hold the breath unless it is specially mentioned to do so during the practice.
    • Breathing should be always through the nostrils unless instructed otherwise.
    • Do not hold the body tight or give undue jerks to the body
    • Perform the practices according to one’s capacity. It takes some time to get good results, so persistent and regular practice is very essential.
    • There are contra-indications/ limitations for each Yoga practice and such contra-indications should always be kept in mind.
    • Yoga session should end with meditation/ deep silence / Sankalpa / Śānti pāṭha etc.

    • Bath may be taken only after 20-30 minutes of Yoga practice.
    • Food may be consumed only after 20-30 minutes of Yoga practice.

Yoga is essentially a path to get liberated from all the bondages. However, medical research in recent years has uncovered many physical and mental benefits that Yoga offers, corroborating the experiences of millions of practitioners. A small sampling of research shows that:

  • Yoga is beneficial for physical fitness, musculoskeletal functioning and cardio-vascular health.
  • It is beneficial in the management of diabetes, respiratory disorders, hypertension, hypotension and many lifestyle related disorders.
  • Yoga helps to reduce depression, fatigue, anxiety disorders and stress.
  • Yoga helps to regulate menstrual and menopausal symptoms. In essence, Yoga is a process of creating body and mind that are stepping-stones, not hurdles, to an exuberant and fulfilling life.

Food for thought

A few dietary guidelines can ensure that the body and mind are flexible and well-prepared for Yoga practice. A vegetarian diet is usually recommended, and for a person over 30 years, two meals a day should suffice, except in cases of illness or very high physical activity or labour.