The true aim of yoga is to prepare the body and mind through the Yama, Niyama, Asana, and Pranayama. Hence it can perform at its highest in Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, And Samadhi. Practicing Yama and Niyama helps maintain mental purity, and Asana along with Pranayama helps maintain physical purity so that Samadhi or the “Yogic Bliss” can be easily attained. It’s recommended that you practice the first four limbs on a regular basis. It’s just like taking a shower. We should do it daily. From a yogic point of view, the mind is not pure if it’s scattered or not focused. For example, if you’re looking at a bowl of marbles and all the marbles are blue except one, we would say that the bowl of marbles is not purely blue. The same goes for the mind. If our minds entertain thoughts of fear or confusion, it is not a pure mind or a focused mind. Through observation, w e become aware of how our thoughts affect our inner and outer worlds. Once we realize the impurity of the mind in the actual moment, it is easy to refocus our minds. However, this requires patience and practice. The impurity of the mind manifests itself on a physical level. These impressions can be realized in our structural, visceral, and Pranic alignment. Any spinal deformation, joint stiffness, or tight muscle groups can be related to the impurity of our minds. Practicing Asana and Pranayama helps restore physical and mental manifested imbalances.
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What is Asana? In blog Two, Sutra 46 Patanjali describes yoga as “Sthira sukham asanam” “Sthira” means “stable,” “sukham” means “comfort,” and “asanam” means “pose.” Asana is a pose held with stability and comfort. The two most important aspects of the Asana are stability and comfort. It’s not flexibility. Many students fear getting into the yoga practice because they lack flexibility. Unfortunately, thinking that we’re only doing yoga to become more flexible is a misconception. We would like to achieve stability. The Asanas help us to achieve a greater range of motion which provides greater stability. The greater our stability, the longer we can maintain a neutral spine whether practicing meditation or sitting on a chair. The less stability we have, the quicker our bodies become fatigued, which will sacrifice the flow of energy and our experience while sitting in meditation. Besides stability, comfort is equally important. I like to think of comfort as a happy and comfortable place while practicing Asana. Practicing Asana is not a “no pain, no gain” game. If we experience pain in our practice, it is most likely because we stretched too far, ignoring our subtle sensations. There is a fine line between feeling a good stretch and feeling pain in practice. We must listen with our inner ears and see with our inner eyes to know the fine line for ourselves and when we must stop.
At the beginning of Asana practice, when we lack awareness of the healthy boundaries of our bodies and mind, we tend to hurt ourselves. We may complain that we pulled a muscle in the back or around the shoulders. These signs are great teachers to start tuning into our bodies and learning what is right for our bodies and mind. The great yogis were even able to sense their internal organs as well. They were so deeply connected with their being. Practicing Asanas is a art form and should be taken with lots of curiosity and exploration instead of performing them without any knowledge. A strong foundation of knowing the Asanas and regular practice of them will deliver comfort with time.