Asana – The awakening of physical consciousness

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Asana – The awakening of physical consciousness
By Acharya Girish Jha,

Asana is one of the most important limbs of Classical Hatha Yoga. In Raja Yoga, asana refers to the sitting meditative posture used for the higher stages of Raja Yoga i.e.) Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi.
Asana is a specific body position, which helps to open the energy channels (nadis), the psychic energy centers (Chakras) .Hatha Yoga is a process through which purification, and control of the body takes place by restructuring the pranic flow.
1. What is asana?
स्थिरसुखमासनम (Patanjali Yoga Sutra-II.46 )
Patanjali defines Asana as “Relaxed and poised position of body is termed Asana.”
He further explains the method of practicing the asana, which is different from physical exercise
2. What is the method of practicing Asana?
प्रयत्नशेथिल्यतान्नतसमापत्तिभ्याम (Patanjali Yoga Sutra-II.47 ) Negation of effort and concentration on infinite is the way to practice asana.
3. What is the result of practice of asana?
ततोद्व्न्द्वानभिघात (Patanjali Yoga Sutra-II.48 ) (The result of asana is) immune to dualities.
4. Why asana is to be practiced?
Being the first accessory of Hatha Yoga, asana is described first. It should be practiced for gaining steady posture, health, and lightness of body. - (Hatha Yoga Pradipika I.19)
5. How long asanas are to be practiced.
Asanas, various Kumbhakas (retention of breath), and other divine means, all should be practiced in the practice of Hatha Yoga, until the fruit of Raja Yoga is obtained. – (Hatha Yoga Pradipika I.69)
One may start practice of asana for10 seconds and time may be increased gradually to maxmimum 3 minutes excpet medittaive postures. The number of asana should be restricted to 5 in the beginning , can be increased after graudally attaining perfection in the simple postures. The duration of asana should also be increased gradually form 20 seconds in the beginning to 2 minutes and more depending upon one’s aim of practicing the asana.
6. How many asanas are there in Yoga?
According to Hatha Yogic texts, there are 8.4 million asanas, propounded by Lord Shiva, the originator of Yoga system. Gherand Samhita, the Hatha Yogic texts explains that only two asanas are very important namely Siddhasana and Padamasana. These two meditative postures prepares the practitioner for higher practices of Yoga i.e. meditation, Samadhi and Self-realization.

7. General rules for practicing Asana

i. Asanas should not be practiced from books but under the guidance of a teacher.
ii. A competitive attitude is harmful and should be avoided.
iii. Asana should be performed slowly, gradually, gradually moving into the final pose without jerking. The return should be done in the same way.
iv. The final posture should be maintained for some time, but in no case under tension.
v. Do not practice beyond limits.
vi. If possible, maintain a diary of asanas showing the days and duration of practice.
vii. As much as possible, asanas should be performed during sunrise or sunset and on an empty stomach or 3 hours after the meal.
viii. The place of practice should be clean and ventilated.
ix. Do not take a bath or shower for at least a half-hour before or after practice.
x. Relax in Shava Asana for few minutes before , after and during the practice to avoid overexertion, fatigue etc.
xi. A practice with humility aims at inner progress and development is the key to all yoga practices.
xii. Practice yoga three hours after meals. Take any food after half an hour of yoga practice.
xiii. One should empty bowls and bladder before yoga practice.
xiv. Clean your nostril so that nasal pasage is free from any obstructions.
xv. The slow, gradual and gentle practice means starting yoga with easy , comfortable postures, practicing pranayama without kumbhaka or retention of breath and relaxing in between are the secrets of success in yoga.
xvi. Avoid over eating, over exertion, fasting, eating junk and instant foods during yoga sadhana( practice).
xvii. Wear loose, comfortable clothes during yoga practice. The ancient masters used to wear only Dhouti( a 6 metre long and one and half metre wide cloth) to keep body free from any obstructions.
xviii. The breath should be deep , silent and slow to keep higher level of awareness during yoga practice. The shallow, irregular breathing pattern distrubs the mind and body.
8. What are the benefits of practice of Asana?
The practice of asana is very important for modern man who suffers from physical, mental, and emotional problems. The regular practice of asana keeps diseases away, promotes and preserves health, prevents many diseases and manages stress and stress induced disorders effectively.
Excellent toning of the muscles – muscles that have become flaccid, weak or slothy are stimulated repeatedly to shed excess flab and flaccidity.
Improve your flexibility
Strengthen and tone your muscles
Improve your posture and ease back, shoulder and neck pain
Increase your stamina
Create balance and grace
Stimulate the endocrine glands
Improve your digestion and elimination
Increase your circulation
The aim of asana is to strengthen the body and make it more flexible, as well as awaken the self - in effect, to provide a physical, mental and spiritual health. Yogasana improves posture; increases the intake of oxygen, and enhances the functioning of the respiratory, digestive, endocrine, reproductive, and elimination systems.