“The body is my temple, Asanas are my prayers.” B.K.S. Iyengar
The Asana or the poses and postures are what most people today recognize as Yoga. The picture of the svelte, cool looking model twisted into a pretzel-like form while remaining beautifully relaxed is what causes a lot of people to fear yoga practice. I cannot count how many times I have heard (and even said myself) “I can’t do yoga I’m not flexible enough!”, “Doesn’t yoga cause injuries?”, “Aren’t they all vegetarian?”, “I can’t quiet my thoughts with that relaxation thing at the end.” These fears and assumptions keep many from returning to or just trying yoga. Perception:
The word YOGA basically means union. We yogis like to think of it as a connection of physical body, mind and spirit. Don’t let that scare you either! It usually occurs without much notice. The positive side effects of a regular yoga practice are stress relief, increased body awareness, calmness, and greater relaxation. At first, a yoga class may seem like a new frontier. There will be mats, blocks, and straps oh my! Strange Sanskrit words may be used. Don’t worry, this varies from class to class just as the students do. There will be the bliss ninny’s, the yoga overachiever, the vegans, regular people and other newbies. Instructors and teaching styles vary widely. Keep trying different classes and instructors until you find one you connect with.
So what are these Asanas and where did they come from? have things changed in them that much since people began practicing them? Asana means to “sit down in a state of being”. The original thought from Patanjali suggests that asana is “to be seated in a position that is firm but relaxed.” Patanjali who wrote the Yoga Sutras and other ancients who wrote yogic texts such as the Bhagavad Gita refer to mostly seated meditation postures. T. Krishnamacharya is likely the source for what we see as yoga asana today. He taught B.K.S Iyengar and K. Patthbi Jois. These men had various influences for the asana postures we see today and even their yoga practice when viewed on old YouTube videos seems “heavier” than the dance-like fluid movements we see today. The evolution of yoga asana practiced as largely seated postures to today’s modern asana has taken place over the past 200 years. The philosophy and practice of yoga however,is much older.
While asana is practiced widely and in a variety of ways we see it continuing to transform, grow and evolve. These changes in asana are a clear example of the dynamic changes that we are to embrace in life as well. It is quite ironic that the practice of yoga teaches detachment from outcome, and transformation in life and has also become the same, fluid and transforming. Yoga asana meets you where you are – seated, standing or just breathing. Your pace, your practice, and remember to BREATHE.