Asanas are not all there is to Yoga. For the few who may not know the ‘asana’ (meaning posture) are the poses that are generically referred in Western pop culture as Yoga. The asana is the third ‘limb’ (anga) of the sage Patanjali’s eight limbs of Yoga known as Ashtanga Yoga.
Bhartendu Sood, in his article, in the editorial page of “Times of India,” makes exactly this point, and that in practicing only the asanas one is practicing only one limb of Yoga. While practicing the postures will keep you fit and toned, if they are practiced with only that intention, fitness and good health will be the only benefit. A great one to be sure, but not one that will awaken you to your Divine nature.
Mr. Sood explains what is involved in walking the path set out by Patanjali, so here’s Mr. Sood…
The eight stages of ashtanga yoga are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratihara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. The five yamas are non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-covetousness. The five niyamas are cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study and surrender to God. Sage Patanjali expected seekers to embrace yama and niyama before coming to the third stage, asana. The eightfold path is to take the practitioner towards moral, physical and spiritual uplift. The ultimate aim of yoga is spiritual realisation or samadhi via mind and body.
Pranayama is control of breath; it purifies and removes distractions, facilitating concentration and meditation. Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses during meditation that enables you to focus on the Supreme Power and establish a cosmic link. Dharana is to concentrate on one point for a considerable length of time. The aim is to still the mind by gently pushing away superfluous thoughts. Dhyana is uninterrupted meditation without an object.
The eight limbs work together: The first five steps – yama, niyama, asana, pranayama and pratyahara – are the preliminaries of yoga and they build the foundation for spiritual life with body and brain. The last three, which would not be possible without the previous steps, are concerned with reconditioning the mind. They help the yogi to attain enlightenment.
Samadhi or enlightenment can be achieved only when we follow these eight stages in the order prescribed by Patanjali. A yogi acquires equanimity and a detached outlook before developing a flat tummy or toned body.
Training of the mind brings equanimity. It is a mental state that looks with equal ease at happiness and sorrow, at misery and luxury, and treats success and failure alike. It looks at the world and happenings around with an open mind, free of biases, fears and has only good and positive thoughts.
The Bhagavad Gita describes yoga as a state of equanimity, achieved by cultivating a detached but unified outlook, serenity of mind, skill in action and the ability to stay attuned to the glory of the Self or atman and the Supreme or Bhagavan.
According to Krishna, the root of all suffering and discord is the agitation of mind caused by selfish desire. The only way to douse the flame of desire is by simultaneously stilling the mind through self-discipline and engaging in a higher form of activity. Yamas and niyamas speak of this self-restraint and discipline, underlining that asanas without yamas and niyamas are simply exercises.
Traversing the path of yoga is not that easy since it calls for lot of restraint, discipline and devotion. It is not good to skip the first two steps in order to begin with asanas. There is nothing wrong in it but it can’t be named yoga and we ought to be aware of its limitation when it comes to making a person spiritual. Read more…
Mr. Sood points out that the first five steps are preliminary steps need to reach the final three. This true, but there is a deeper truth. It is true that there is a sequence to the eight limbs which makes up the daily practice and that total samadhi is the result of the previous seven limbs being fully developed, however, there are different levels of samadhi. Samadhi means a completely still or settled mind, and the first stage of samadhi (samprajnata), is the initial settling down of the mind, that right from the beginning of the practice, helps bring together the practice of all eight limbs.
Even these early stages of samadhi are very beneficial for the mind body system and move the practitioner closer to total absorption.
The whole process of Yoga is to unite the separate individual self with the Universals self. Yoga is the practice of reentering our original state, the state of perfection, a state of perfect self-realization. Knowing this it’s easy to understand that asanas are not all there is to Yoga.
If you would like the message of meditation to spread, please click the LIKE button below share this article on Facebook.