Asanas and purpose of Asanas practice – The History.
Surprisingly that the majority of people while practicing yoga do not know the meaning of the word Asana. Even more do not know the true purpose of Asanas practice.
Therefore, in this article I will try and explain from where world Asana came from. Also, what is Asanas mean and purposes of Asanas practice.
First of all, let me start from the meaning of word Asana. The Asana is derived from the Sanskrit, the language of ancient India.
“Asa”, which means existence or “to be established in to” and state of existence is Asana or Position. Eventually, Asana means the position of the body as well as the state of mind.
The oldest scriptures of Yoga and Asanas were discovered around 5000 years ago.
In fact, the first complete text on Yoga was written by Patanjali 500 years ago. He is the father of Yoga.
Patanjali defines Asana as a steady and comfortable position. So, it is necessary that the movement involved should be slow and steady. Moreover, fast and speedy movement, jerks and strains should be avoided too.
Asanas and purpose of Asanas practice – Important Steps.
If you consider the Asana, there are 3 steps.
First: Taking the position.
Second is the Asana or position itself.
Third is releasing the position.
Furthermore, movements have to be slow and controlled. Additionally, while maintaining the position, one should perform with steadiness, comfort and relaxation.
Patanjali defines asanas as a steady comfortable position. He believed the purpose of asana was to develop the ability to sit comfortably in one position for an extended period of time. Especially a necessitative requirement for meditation.
Whereas, Hatha yogis say that when we are in particular asanas, energy channels and psychic centres are open. They found that they could control the mind and energy. It happens while developing control of the body through these particular asanas practice.
They say that asanas are tools to build higher awareness. It provides the necessary foundation for exploring the body, mind and higher states.
Asanas and purpose of Asanas practice – Significant Types.
The Asanas can be classified depending on the application of the asanas.
Meditative asanas. The purpose of this asana is to stabilize the body for advanced practice of Pranayama (breathing) and Meditation.
In particular, Padmasana (Lotus pose) or Varjrasan (thunderbolt pose) are the great examples of meditative asanas.
Naturally, an experienced yogi can maintain these asanas for three hours without any discomfort. It is mastery on physical level, with a focus on the mind and breath.
Asanas for improving health. In this category we classified asanas which have a complementary effect on various organs and systems in the human body.
As an example, Matsyendrasana (spinal twist pose) has a good effect on the digestive system. In fact, specifically on the pancreas for improving the insulin production.
In another case, Sarvangasana (shoulder stand pose) has good results on the endocrine gland system, particularly the thyroid glands
Relaxing asanas. Give complete rest to the body and mind. Great example of this will be Shavasana (corpse pose) and Makarasana (crocodile pose).
As a result, both poses are showing a great impact on body relaxation. It applies before, during or after yoga practice.
Asanas and purpose of Asanas practice – Meaningful Benefits.
In Gherand Samhita (text on Hatha yoga) the author describes the effect of asanas as: “The result of Asana is perfecting the stability of body and mind.”
The similar description of Asana is found in Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It says that “One can achieve sound health, stability, lightness of body and mind with Asana”.
In the same way, we can see the other effects of asana in day to day life. As a result, quiet and calm mind, easy control over emotions. Therefore, improvement in attitude.
Increased immune capacity and efficiency are also one of the positive effects of asana practice.
Asanas and purpose of Asanas practice – Western view.
Meanwhile, we know that the mind and body are not separate entities. Even though there is a tendency to think and act as though they are. Asana practice integrates and harmonises the two.
Apparently, there are tensions in both the mind and body. Each mental tension has a corresponding physical tension and vice versa. Asanas helps release these tensions.
A well-chosen set of asanas is effective in eliminating tensions from both the mental and physical levels.
The set has to be combined with pranayama, shatkarmas (cleansing techniques) and meditation.
Even it will help in the following:
- Release dormant energy, giving the body vitality and strength
- Provide the mind with peace and calmness.
- Increase confidence in all areas in life.
If fact, if you correct the body through asana practice, you can correct many emotional disturbances of the mind.
For example, practicing asanas that have an effect on the digestive system will furthermore help to relieve anger and anxiety.
To summarize, we shall state the main purpose of asana practice is to influence and integrate. Also, harmonise all levels of being – physical, pranic, mental, emotional and spiritual.
In any case asanas have also profound effects on every level of being if they are combined with awareness.
Awareness to the whole body, peaceful mind and harmonious breathing.