A Brief History of the Role of Postures in Yoga

In the western world, we usually equate ‘Asana’ (postures) with ‘Yoga’ and the primary aim of people that come a yoga class is either to become more flexible, stronger or lose weight.  However, for some there is also the aspect of ‘stress relief’, so there must be something more to yoga than just the physical side.
Those of you who have been coming to class regularly may have heard me saying that Asana (postures) is just one aspect of yoga (the third of the 8 limbs).  If we keep reducing Asana to a set of exercises, performed by rote, we are losing the yogic context.  The key of Asana is to purify the body and the mind by engaging the body, the breath and the mind in physical postures.  Through that, we are creating heat (for purification of the body) and focus (for the purification of the mind).
If we go back to the origins of Yoga, the description of postures was originally limited to a few seated postures and the later development of more advanced postures was to create the discipline of the mind and the strength and stability in the spine and core to sit in meditation practice for long periods of time.  While this may not resonate for some yoga practioners, what you can do is watch and observe how your yoga practice starts to transcend the muskoskeletal part and affects your energetic (pranic) system.  This may not come over night but you may find yourself down that proverbial yogic ‘rabbit hole’ sooner or later.  So, keep coming to class, even if you are only interested in touching your toes, but keep an open mind and see what unfolds.
Namaste, Evelyn

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