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A is for Asana

A is for ASANA

When I say “yoga”, what is the first thing that you think of?  I’m guessing you imagine someone in a beautiful, exotic setting, moving their body into some sort of unusual and slightly contorted posture. 

Is that about right?  What you are imagining is the tip of the iceberg of a yoga practice, the outward, visible form of yoga, also known as ASANA.

Asana is one of the eight limbs of yoga (we will briefly visit the other limbs at letter E) and in Sanskrit means “the posture a person takes while practicing hatha yoga”.  The purpose of asana in a traditional yoga practice was to stretch, strengthen, and ready the body for the lengthy practice of seated meditation.  You move your body, breathe, experience your body and breath in union, and once that was completed, you were ready to move deeper into the experience of the mind in meditation and deeper states of consciousness. 

In our contemporary times, asana is what we mostly associate with yoga.  We say we “do” yoga and what we mean is we practice yoga asana.  We move, stretch, strengthen, and condition the body for mostly physical reasons.  To lose weight, gain strength and flexibility, or to challenge ourselves physically. 

Sometimes while listening to hip hop music. 

Sometimes under black lights with glow sticks. 

Often times in pricey, though super cute yoga gear.  (A little reminder, the list above, while fun, are simply trends and marketing tools and have nothing to do with traditional yoga asana.)

All these physical/external reasons for yoga practice I like to call “gateway” reasons for the deeper exploration of yoga.  This is the starting line, and can be rewarding and valuable reasons for taking up the physical practice of yoga, but often you will find there is so much more waiting for you beyond the external practice of yoga.  It is a deep journey inward on a path to your higher self.  

So begin by building a strong yoga asana practice.  And by strong, I don’t mean perfect the fancy and challenging arm balances or contorted poses.  I mean build each pose from the ground up.  Feel firm and light, strong and at ease, effort and balance.  Respect your limitations and your abilities.  Modify, use props, make your yoga asana your own.  And remember asana is simply one aspect of your yoga practice and is not the means to measuring your development.

Allow a yoga ASANA practice to be your gateway to a deeper exploration of the mind, body, breath, and universe within you.  

Namaste.

(This is the first in a series of blog installments for the A to Z Challenge.  I will be covering each letter of the alphabet as it applies to the practice of yoga, meditation, and self inquiry.)

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