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Asanas and purpose of Asanas practice – A UK Yoga Teachers Blog

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.

Buddha and asana practice

In the same way, in the Western world we call Asana a Yoga posture.

Asana practice

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

Beautiful yoga practice

 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.

Camel yoga posture in the desert

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.

History of Yoga

​Increased immune capacity and efficiency are also one of the positive effects of asana practice.

beautiful combination

 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.

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    History of yoga Tunbridge Wells teacher blog

    The History of Yoga – A UK Yoga Teachers Blog

    The History of Yoga

     Due to the oral transmission of sacred texts and the secretive nature of the teaching, the exact dates of the origins history of yoga are difficult to verify. 

    In fact, according to modern historians, the first written copies of the yoga were found in southwestern Asia. It was around 5,000 years ago, but it is believed they were there orally for much longer.  Some sources were given up to 10,000 years or even more.

    For the most part, it was a collection of sacred songs, mantras and rituals which was used by Vedic priests known as Brahmas. Moreover, in the sources appear the first mention of ascetics and ascetic practices, the first explicit references to yoga appear. Concepts of withdrawing the scenes, controlling the mind, and attaining liberation are mentioned in founded materials too.

    The evolution of yoga is believed to span since that time. During this long development it has branched into many different styles and schools. Some concentrate on the mind and meditation, some on exercise and breathing.

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    Raja yoga - “the king of yoga” - because all yoga pathways are said to lead to it.

    The History of Yoga – Raja and Jnana Yoga

     In the first place Raja yoga was founded before 1000 BCE. It is the earliest form of yoga, which is known as meditation. 

    In the art of the ancient East the Buddha was often depicted meditating. His knees closed in one of the classic cross-legged sitting positions. 

    That is the first yoga postures, in modern yoga named lotus. It was developed by the sages because they enabled them to sit in meditation without moving for long periods. 

    In fact, the ancient form of yoga Buddha practiced survives today as Raja yoga – “the king of yoga” – because all yoga pathways are said to lead to it.

    "When the five senses, along with the mind, remain still and the intellect is not active, that is known as the highest state. They consider yoga to be firm restraint of the senses. Then one becomes un-distracted for yoga is the arising and the passing away" - Katha Upanishad, c. 5th century BCE

    Later on, the first writing of Jnana yoga – yoga of knowledge was founded c. 900 BCE. It is intuitive, enlightening knowledge which is gained from enquiry and insight. It is a process of slowly discovering the nature of our personality with intellectual guidance. 

    There have been many famous Jnana yogis who have defied logic. They gained knowledge through intuition and by seeing something that was not defined by the existing, accepted knowledge of the time.

    Life is all about movement and change. That means Karma yoga is something we cannot avoid.

    Beauty of nature

    The History of Yoga –  Yoga Sutras

     Furthermore The Yoga sutras (collection of 196 Indian sutras (aphorisms) on the theory and practice of yoga) were compiled prior 200 BCE by sage Patanjali. 

    He writes the yoga sutras, giving guidance on meditation and the practice of yoga. It was the first yoga manual from older traditions. 

    Later, 1200 years ago, the sage Ramanuja initiates Bhakti yoga. The yoga of devotion to a personal god. 

    Through service to God or to other people, through prayer, and through faith, one achieves enlightenment. Bhakti yoga as one of three spiritual paths for salvation is discussed in depth by the Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord).


    The History of Yoga – Hatha Yoga

     Finally 1000 years ago, science of Hatha yoga started to develop and gained more and more popularity over a period of time. The tradition or science was found by Sage Matsyendranath, his followers and his discipline Sage Gorakhnath. 

    As a result, they designed wonderful techniques from the Tantras (a Hindu or Buddhist mystical or magical text), leaving aside some of the ritualistic parts which had many sociality unacceptable methods. Obviously, the focus was on purification, asanas (yoga postures), cleansing, pranayam (breathing) as well as mudras and bandhas. 

    Balance between body and mind
    Practitioners from the past

    The History of Yoga – Karma Yoga

     Afterward Karma yoga or yoga of action was founded in c. 300 BCE. This type of yoga emphasises taking the right action at the right time to avoid future unhappiness.

    Karma means movement or change. This change brought about the action. 

     Life is all about movement and change. That means Karma yoga is something we cannot avoid. When we are born we have to act, to get our food, earn living, interact with outside world.

    So then, in the late 19th century, yoga masters began traveling to the west. Hatha yoga was the classic school destined to influence the modern world, since its emphasis on asanas (yoga postures), breathing, and healing appealed to the Western mind. Afterward, many Westerns visited India to study Hatha yoga, and respected Indian teachers, taught in the West.

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