Asanas or postures are the physical aspect of yoga. They belong to the bahiranga (external) yoga. The word “asan” means mat or seat. It is recommended that you use your own mat as it carries your energies.
Another meaning of “asana” is “no hope”. Yogis say asanas or postures must be simply practiced. It is an art of hopelessness just like a child’s play.
Types Of Postures
There are 8,400,000 postures categorized as cultural, meditative and relaxing. Cultural postures help achieve flexibility, balance, strength, endurance and agility. Meditative postures help shift the awareness from the physical body to the breath and awareness of consciousness. Relaxing postures are meant to relax and rejuvenate the body. There are only four meditative and two relaxing postures. The rest are cultural postures. The purpose of all asanas is to achieve one of the four meditative postures — siddhasana, padmasana, vajrasana or sukhasana. The true test of fitness is the ability to sit or stand for hours at a stretch without any discomfort or ache. Yoga postures are designed so as yogis sit for hours or even days to meditate.
Break Habits, Not Your Body:
There are stretch receptors present in the body which detect changes in the length of muscles and communicate with the brain to avoid strain on the muscles due to exertion. But pushing yourself slowly and regularly in a posture can help attain new levels of flexibility overtime. Research has also shown increased blood circulation, lymphatic drainage, synovial fluid movement and improved fascia in the body through yoga postures. Your lung capacity can also be improved which leads to better oxygen absorption. Postures work directly on the organs and endocrine glands of the body. Through regular practice, you can break the unhealthy patterns or habits in the body which lead to diseases and disorders. Thus weight loss, improved health and fitness, age reversal are all obvious benefits of practicing yoga.
Clarity And Balance To The Mind
Research has shown an increase in GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) levels in practitioners of yoga. It is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the nervous system. People with depression and anxiety have been shown to have low amounts of GABA in their cerebrospinal fluid. When the GABA receptors are activated in the brain using substance or medication, you feel relaxed and sleepy. But when that is withdrawn, you are left with overexcited GABA receptors, the side-effects of which include insomnia, anxiety and seizures. Yoga which elevates mood, makes you feel relaxed and aware is a natural way to improve the GABA levels. Alertness of the brain brings clarity to your thoughts, decisions, mental focus and energies. It also helps improve a sense of balance in your day to day life.
The Yogic Aphorism
Yogis understood that the mind and body have to synchronize for a well-rounded life. In Patanjali Yogasutras, one of the yoga’s best known literary works, the purpose and usage of asanas is defined as “sthiraha sukham asanam”, meaning stability and feeling of well-being in a posture. What this aphorism implies is the necessity to practice the cultural postures until you can sit in a meditative posture with absolute stability and ease. This brings a feeling of stillness and wellbeing. When you practice stillness, a subtle meditative chord can be touched in your system which brings you to “sukh”, a feeling of immediate happiness. The internal (antaranga) journey of yoga begins from this place of joy and contentment.
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