Asana is the name given to the physical poses or postures of yoga. It is what most people think of when they think of yoga and is often referred to as Hatha Yoga. “Ha” meaning sun and “tha” meaning moon, where the sun represents the positive energies and the moon the negative ones. It is bringing these into balance through postures that is the practice of asana.
Asana are quite different to other exercises though, as you are asked to be aware of the breath and use the breath to move into and out of asana. Often the exhaling breath is used to help steady the body and mind and enable the muscles to lengthen or strengthen depending on what the asana is aimed at doing. You also need to keep the mind with the practice…..all too often the mind wanders to this and that so the practice of asana helps to balance the wild fluctuations of the mind.
Swami Satyananda says in the introduction to his book Asana, Pranayama, Mudra and Bandha that
“The body and mind are not separate entities although there is a tendency to think and act as though they are. The gross form of the mind is the body …and the subtle form of the body is the mind.”
In this way the actions of the body will affect the mind and the activity of the mind will affect the body. You probably know from your own experience how negative thoughts can make you feel lethargic or more aware of aches and pains and you may also have experienced the “good” feelings you get when you have been out riding a bike, walking in nature or doing some form of exercise. Most doctors now agree that exercise is not only good for the body but good for the mind.
According to Patanjali (who is often referred to as the father of yoga) asana is about finding a position that is steady and comfortable. So the practice of asanas is developing the ability to be steady and comfortable in different poses, bringing the mind and body into harmony. Ultimately the practice is designed to enable one to sit comfortably in meditation. However there are many other benefits of asana practice. Regular practice keeps the joints flexible, the muscles and ligaments are gently stretched and strengthened, tensions and toxins are released and the mind is brought into balance with the body.
So what are you waiting for???.. find a teacher and get onto that mat!