Do we practice yoga or yoga asana? I would say most of us do the latter.
What’s the difference? Find out below.
There is no doubt that the science of yoga has countless benefits to the humanity and the world has understood it, to some extent, and as the result yoga is spreading very fast around the world. In the modern day of aspiration for material achievement, people are rushing ceaselessly to achieve their goal. As the result people are exhausted and stressed. The same state of mind and body has brought many people to “yoga” or yoga asana practice in nearby yoga studio drop in classes and they take the physical postures to be a complete yoga package where their goal is to do an “awesome pose” like somebody else. Here, the first thing we should understand is that yoga is better prevention although it cures well.
Practice of asana, the physical postures, gives them a relief from the tiredness and stress and they feel the magic of physical wellbeing which ultimately has effects on psychological and spiritual realm. But they miss to understand the real meaning of yoga in such short classes thus take the yoga asana to be the yoga in a whole. They miss the real meaning of yoga.
In fact, what one mostly practices, in yoga asana, is the physical postures where s/he tries to be at total ease and in perfect harmony with oneself. It is one of the eight limbs of yoga as suggested by Patanjali and other yogis. Asana is the third limb of yoga which prepares yogis to be at physical ease so that they can sit longer in meditation and move further ahead in the path of yoga towards Samadhi, the appearance of object without the consciousness of the individual (We will talk about Samadhi in details in a separate blog next time).
The asana practice has a very deep and subtle effect on the body creating proper alignment and establishing coordination among the body systems. When the physical body gets proper alignment and body systems in coordination, the flow of prana, the energy, becomes smooth in all body parts and systems. When the whole body gets proper and regulated flow of prana, we feel at ease. The practice of asana has straight effects on three dimensions of our body – physical, mental and spiritual; gross, subtle and casual. These dimensions in human body are known as Koshas in yogic term and all three koshas – Annamaya, the physical aspect; Manomaya, the mental aspect; Pranamaya, the energy aspect – get very deep effects with the practice of asana. At the level of Annamaya kosha, the practitioner gets in-depth awareness of body, whereas, at the level of Manomaya kosha, a clear awareness of the strength and weakness of mind is experienced and at the level of Pranamaya kosha, the awareness of prana, the energy is experienced. These all awareness experience, in our body dimensions, is brought by the proper and regular practice of yoga asana.
Asana or the practice of physical postures is a very important aspect of yoga practice although it is not a complete yoga in itself. It is a path that leads us to the ultimate destination of yogic practice, union of soul with the supreme consciousness. In the materialistic world, most of us are not walking into the path of yoga although we have been practicing yoga asana for years mistaking it to be a complete yoga and thinking ourselves as seasoned yogis.