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Model: Jazzamine (Yoga Instructor) Location: Pond Builders Sdn. Bhd.

PERSPECTIVE

your
Know

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Ramona Keens
Yogasanas
PERSPECTIVE

W
e have all been practicing yoga and performing its poses, without knowing
its origins and its purpose. Indeed, the benefits of these poses are felt almost
overnight and the demand and love for yoga deepens from feeling its
effects. However, there are not many people who are aware of the significance of each
pose until they receive full guidance from a qualified yoga guru. Until that happens,
the word ‘Asana’ will only remain as a definition in the Vedic scriptures.

The oldest scriptures of the ‘Vedas’ which discusses yoga and asanas were found about
5,000 years ago. However, the first complete text on Yoga was written by Patanjali, 500
years BC.

The word asana is derived from the Sanskrit verb ‘Aas,’ which means existence or state
of existence. Here the position of the body as well as the mind is expected to be in
harmony with each other. Usually translated as “pose” or “posture,” its literal
meaning is “comfortable seat.” Each movement demands that we adhere to some
aspect of consciousness and use ourselves or our
bodies in a new way. The vast diversity of asanas is
no accident, for through exploring both familiar
and unfamiliar postures we are also expanding
our consciousness, so that regardless of the
situation or form we find ourselves in, we can
remain “comfortably seated” in our center.
Intrinsic to this practice is the uncompromising
belief that every aspect of the body is engulfed by
consciousness. Asana practice is a way to develop
this interior awareness.

What distinguishes an asana from a stretch or


other slow-moving exercises is that in asana
practice, we focus our mind’s attention
completely in the body so that we can move as a
unified whole and so can perceive what the body
has to tell us. In short, We don’t do something to
the body, we become the body. In the modern
world this is rarely done. We watch TV while we
stretch; read a book while we ride our exercise
bikes, we think about our problems while we take
a walk, all the time living a short distance from the
body. So asana practice is a reunion between the
usually separated body-mind.

There are three steps in practicing an asana – one,


in taking the position, two, in holding the position
and three, in releasing from the position. Patanjali defines that asanas are steady and
comfortable positions that the body moves into from stage to stage. It is necessary that
the movement involved be slow and steady and one should avoid fast and speedy
movements with jerks and strains.

When there is a conscious movement of the muscles, the cerebral cortex, (the central
part of the brain), is mostly in use. Being the more evolved part of the brain, the
cerebral cortex allows greater cortical control which promotes profound effects on our
entire wellbeing.

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Taking into consideration exercises like aerobics or in the position. One should be able to maintain the pose
gymnastics, where fast movements are involved unlike comfortably and feel at ease.
asanas, there is no steadiness or comfort in any of these
exercises; in fact the focus is on performing more positions 3. Once steadiness and comfort is achieved, one should
in short intervals while stretching the body to its maximum try to progressively relax the muscles. And when the
limits without considering the comfort levels of the body. body is relaxed, the mind also becomes calm and
relaxed.
Asanas on the other hand, are different as far as taking the
position (slow and controlled movements), maintaining 4. And finally, once the mind is calm and relaxed, t he
the position (steadiness and comfort) and releasing the ultimate purpose of yogasanas is being able to easily
position are concerned. The asanas can be progressively focus on an object of meditation for a higher stage of
achieved or mastered in 4 levels and they are: experience.

1. Asanas which involve stability. The body is maintained If one practices the asanas with these 4 levels in progression,
in a particular pose for a longer duration while achieving then one can be said to have mastered the asanas, which
the stability of muscles, whether stretched or relaxed. results in perfection on physical and mental aspects.
The effort in this is to stabilize the body and its processes. Ideally if one can maintain a pose for a length of time
without suffering any discomfort, it is mastery on the
2. Once the stability is achieved for a certain period of physical level while if one reaches higher stages of
time in any asana, the next level is to feel the comfort meditation, then it is mastery on the mental level.

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wish to create for our future. Every aggressive
inclination or desire begins in a body filled with tension
and every failure to reach out to someone in need begins
in a body that has forgotten how to feel. This limb of
yoga practice reattaches us to our body. In reattaching
ourselves to our bodies we reconnect ourselves to the
responsibility of living a life guided by the undeniable
wisdom of our body.

So true is the famous saying, “Listen to your body,” which


alerts us when the body is undergoing pain, or sends out
signals of traumatic disturbances from layers inside of us,
for us to take serous consideration. When there is an
ailment, it is the body that tells us immediately that
something is wrong. When we have over-exerted, it is our
bodies that slows us down so that we stop. The wisdom of
the body and its internal system of function is far superior
to what meets the eye. Underrating it is a mistake and
ignoring it is hazardous.

The similar description of ‘Asana’ is also found in the Hatha


Yoga Pradipika which says that “One can achieve sound

“ The wisdom of
the body and its
health, stability, lightness of the body and mind with
Asanas”.

The other effects of asanas can be seen in our day to day life
internal system such as increased efficiency, increased stamina and
immunity, a calm mind, an easy control over our emotions,
and a vast improvement in our attitude.
of function is far
Since asanas refer to poses we practice, they can be classified
superior to what depending on the application of the asanas, such as:

meets the eye. Meditative asanas – Poses such as Padmasana (Lotus


pose), Siddhasana (Perfect pose), Vajrasana (thunderbolt
Underrating it is pose), and Samasana (balance pose) are called meditative
asanas. The main aim of these poses is to stabilize the body
a mistake and “ for the advance practices of pranayama (breathing
exercises) and meditation. So these asanas aid with calming
ignoring it is and slowing down the energies in the body to partake in
meditation later.
hazardous. Asanas for better health – Since asanas have great effects
on the various systems of the human body, it would be
beneficial for anyone intending a healthier life to practice
these poses. Poses like Matsyendrasana (spinal twist) has
The natural condition of the body and mind will be in a good effects on the digestive system and a good effect on
relaxed state of being, with regular practices of asanas. This the pancreas for improving the insulin production;
relaxed condition should be achieved without any effort. Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) has good effects on the
So if you are just sitting in the office chair, your body endocrine gland system particularly the thyroid glands.
should be absolutely relaxed and your mind, calm. There In this category, asanas have a complementary effect on
will not be any stress or strain in the body and no cluttering various organs. Hence, it is imperative that when getting
thoughts in the mind. Thus asanas promote calmness and into yoga poses, to hold the pose for as long as possible,
balance in the body, which is utterly essential for our so that the body benefits from the effects of the pose
bodies to stay in peak performance. better.

The emphasis on asana practice is particular to the age Relaxing asanas – Asanas like Shavasana (corpse pose)
we live in, for we exist in a time of disconnection from and Makarasana (crocodile pose) are relaxing asanas,
bodily awareness. When we are not part of our bodies which give complete rest to the body and mind. The
we are dissociated from our instincts, feelings, intuitions body needs all the relaxation it can have to function
and insights, and we disengage ourselves from other better after some physical exercise. Modern exercises do
people’s feelings and sufferings. The subtle ways in not provide this benefit to the body which is why the
which we become numb to our bodily awareness body undergoes different sensations from sores to aches
including the feelings and perceptions that arise from after strenuous exercises. But with yoga, the corpse pose
them leave us clueless to know who we are, where we’re normalizes the body to prepare the body to get up and
going, what we believe in, and what kind of world we go again.

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The Symbolism of Yogasanas
healing powers that no other rejuvenation programme can
The Tree Pose
achieve and restores the body’s balance and maintains the
A tree is tall, strong and upright. It sends its roots deep alertness of the mind.
down into the earth and its crown reaches high up towards
the skies. It brings nourishment from the earth up to its The Bow Pose
uppermost branches. The roots spread so far and wide that
they become mixed with roots of other trees and plants. A In our current existence there are many types of bows. The
tree also shares its existence with other creatures – as with Rainbow symbolizes ‘hope’ that cloudy days and rain is
parasites, birds, insects and other large animals. about to stop. It gives people the chance to dream of a
bright future and the days ahead.
A tree stands tall despite its constant exposure to the
elements and it finds every possible way to adapt to the The bows of the violin and the arrow are shaped differently
conditions it exists in, like in winter and summer. The Tree because they have different functions. When performing
pose symbolizes extreme strength and faith in the face of the Bow pose, we become the archer and it is a reminder to
change – one that will provide a great deal of support to us that our body is an important tool that we use to reach
any practitioner who is in the quest of finding himself and our goals. The Bow pose provides our bodies the stamina
is suffering from the unanswered questions of life. and strength to achieve our goals in our daily lives, without
which we will break under pressure.
The Warrior Pose
The Pigeon Pose
As the name suggests, the Warrior pose symbolizes the
warrior within us. Every one of us has been born with a The pigeons are city birds that are ordinary and common.
brave-heart and the instinct to defend our rights and They are often thought to be of great nuisance and are
territories. The warrior is constantly prepared for the worst creatures that nobody pays any attention to. In yoga, the
of situations and remains calm no matter the circumstance. posture is called the Pigeon pose because the chest is
He is brave and steady in his firm beliefs. This pose (of pushed forward like that of a pigeon’s. It is a pose that is
which there are three types), promises stability and focus to commonly associated with excessive pride which asks us
the practitioner and provides calm in the face of danger or the question of whether we have boastfully shown off our
aggression. pride to the people around us. This pose teaches humility
to the practitioner and makes the practitioner conscious of
his relationships with the world at large.
The Headstand Pose
When we have uprooted ourselves from our feet and Thus in yoga, asanas have been carefully named after
turned our world up-side-down, we are forced to look at animals and living things around us for specific reasons.
things from a different perspective. Although there is great They amplify the meanings of these symbols which instills
fear in venturing into this posture by most practitioners, within us the need to stay alive and healthy.
this is purely because they are afraid of changing their
perspectives. Whilst in this pose, the practitioner is Yoga is the performance of asanas in a combination of slow
committed to hold the pose for a period of time, thus movements that help promote longevity and durability of
lending him the opportunity of becoming an observer of the functions of the body and its internal organs.
his surroundings and not a participant. Since it is not often Commonly mistaken as a form of exercise which
that the headstand is done, this pose promises demands too much from an individual, these asanas do
nourishment of the mind and not require more than what the
soul. body can perform on its own.

With no fancy gadgets or extra


The Corpse Pose
equipments to work with, asanas
Known as the Corpse pose, this provide so much more than
is one of the most powerful what can be comprehended by
poses in yoga. In performing the mind. Although there are
this pose, the practitioner is still many skeptics on the
encouraged to surrender him- physical, emotional and
self to mother earth with his physiological benefits of yoga,
hands and feet totally free; his yoga has stood the test of
head lose and his facial and criticisms and time. But one
body muscles all at ease. This is phenomenon remains true till
the only time the body today and that is, there has been
recuperates from all the severe no written research or medical
challenges of the day. breakthrough to prove the
contraindications of yogasanas.
The Corpse pose provides its That in itself should suffice to
practitioners the ultimate prove the effectiveness of this
ancient system. YL

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A D V E RTO R I A L

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