By Shameem Akhtar
Yoga asanas are not truly about the body, but about ensuring that the body is intact
As an instructor I am faced with all sorts of excuses people throw up to avoid doing yoga. Including those who are good at it and especially those who feel they have ‘advanced’ spiritually. It is amusing, because that is precisely the sort of trap that life lays for us and which yoga, in its physical form, seeks to save us from.
It is simple. We are meant to disintegrate physically. Nature has no use for us once we are past our childbearing years. Medical science has noted that this disintegration starts as early as in our 20s, from brain cells, to skin cells, to our digestive tract and our circulatory system as well as the master glands that govern our hormonal system. Everything in the body is meant to disintegrate, to make way for the next generation. Physical yoga seeks to halt this disintegration, so that we can utilise our lucky birth as human beings, to grow closer to our goals of liberation and self-realisation. As Adi Shankaracharya said, we have to pass through 84 lakh births before we attain a human birth that opens up our mental eyes to the concept of moksha.
Perhaps it is not at all a coincidence that many of our spiritual inspirations, be it Lord Shiva, Krishna, Buddha, or Adi Shankaracharya, are depicted as youthful. Perhaps there is implied a physical strength that met up with their mental and spiritual strengths? Perhaps, that need not be sniffed at.
If this is remembered, then the discipline of yoga, including its cleansing pranayama practices (very difficult to practice this on your own!) becomes easier. However, those who forget this, will create all those excuses that I hear endlessly. Boredom, and greater spiritual advancement, that insists they do more meditation instead of asanas. Illhealth, often a created one, by many regular students, who simply are not used to the idea of complete health through yoga, or who seek ill-health as an escape route from something immediately disturbing in their lives.
Sirsha angustha yogasana
Stand with feet a metre apart. Flare right foot out, keeping left lightly turned in. Interlock hands behind. Inhale. While exhaling, bend torso in front, reaching head to the floor, as low as possible, almost to the ground, touching it in front of the right foot. You will be bending at the right knee to accommodate this forward tilt. Hold the pose, extending the arms behind throughout. Breathe normally. Release, by gently standing upright. Then repeat for the other side.
Benefits and caution:
This is an advanced pose, and may be attempted only by someone with an intermediate level of yoga practice. It works the legs powerfully. Removes digestive complaints. Trims fat, especially along the waist. It tones the entire spine.
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