Asanas (postures to prepare the body for meditation)
Hatha Yoga Pradipika refers to asana as being
‘a steady and comfortable meditative pose’; ‘a specific position of the body which channels prana, opens the chakras and removes energy blocks.’
Swami Muktibodhananda p 607.
It is often believed that asanas are physical exercises, and of course this is true; they do have a profound influence on the body, but this does not convey their full significance.
Each person is made up of three aspects; body, mind and consciousness, which merge together to constitute our whole being. Asanas aim at influencing all three aspects; moulding and yoking them into one harmonious whole.
The prime aim of yoga is to help us tread the path to higher consciousness so we can begin to understand and know our relationship with existence. However, if our body and mind are not healthy we are unable to achieve this.
Regular asana practice loosens joints, stretches and tones muscles, removes poisons, harmonizes the nervous system, massages and improves the functioning of all the internal organs, the heart, lungs, abdominal organs, endocrinal glands, blood vessels and leads to the best possible health.
Asanas also have a subtle influence on the body’s energy field. Energy travels around the body in specific pathways known as nadis. These can become blocked, leading to physical and mental disorders. Asanas encourage the free flow of prana, facilitating good health. The energy body is intimately connected to the mind, therefore the free flow of prana leads to mental equilibrium and calmness.
Asanas also bring about a change in breathing. Rapid and irregular breathing signifies tension in the body and mind, whereas slow deep and rhythmical breathing indicates calmness and wellbeing. Asanas bring about mental and emotional equanimity by slowing down the breathing and deepening the inhalation and exhalation.
Asanas also help self awareness. When practising, one should be fully aware of what is being done and not allow the mind to wander here and there. Being aware of the movement of breath while doing the asanas takes the mind away from worries and problems. Even though for a short time, this can assist in permanent changes in a person’s mental and emotional makeup.
Asanas make the body relaxed, strong, light, supple, free of aches and pains and because the body and mind are inextricably linked, this in turn brings about emotional and mental calmness and confidence.