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Awesome Asana

living your yoga Nov 05, 2023

The Eight Limbs of Yoga: An 16-part mini-course

PART ELEVEN: ASANA

Steadiness and ease in balance create the comfortable seat.
- SUTRA II.46


Gingerly stepping onto the soft surface of your sticky mat, your breath releases with a sigh as you settle into the feeling of being at home in a familiar place. Your attention flows from your breath through your body, sensing the earth beneath as you sink your weight into the corners of your feet while simultaneously lifting and spreading your toes. Your knees soften as your legs push down as if searching for solid ground beneath a layer of warm, oozing mud connecting you with a sense of stability. Finding it, you draw that strength back up into your muscles with wavelike pulsations rippling into your hips.

In the world of yoga we liken this feeling to the plant kingdom – rooting to rise. Planting our roots deep into terra firma to awaken the upward growth from earth to sky.

As you adjust the position of your pelvis atop your thighs, your lumbar curve fluctuates until it too settles into a just right place. It is here at the base of the spine that you gather strength from a firm foundation, drawing it ever upward through your belly and backbone, hugging into the central axis of your body as it expands into its full height. Your ribs begin to float lifting your heart with a deepening of breath. A lightness flows into your shoulders inspiring your arms to naturally ascend toward the heavens. Urdva Hastasana (upward hands) organically becomes the first asana (pose) by which you greet the new day.

Your face tilts upward to open the throat and drink in yet another delicious breath of energy – prana – right there at the end of your nose. A release escapes from your windpipe as a gentle ha sound resonates through open mouth returning your arms to my side. Your belly, spine, legs and feet again sink into the comfort of being fully awake and alive.

You follow this pattern of grounding and lifting, hugging and expanding through a variety of postures that both invigorate and loosen joints, muscles, organs, and glands. This is the benefit of asana.

Care of the human frame and all it contains is a large part of our personal healthcare and is effectively enhanced through the practice of Hatha Yoga which is comprised of Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath expansion), and Pratyahara (drawing the senses inward) - the third, fourth, and fifth limbs of Yoga.

The Yamas and Niyamas lay the groundwork for right attitude and right action in how we live our life. Yoga Asana is an opportunity to practice right action within the intimate relationship of our own physical structure.

Sthira Sukham Asanam  

Sutra 2.46 translates as Steadiness and Ease in balance create the comfortable seat. This is the primary teaching of Asana. Pronounced Ahhh-sana as in awesome, I believe that is truly how they are meant to feel.

To maintain steadiness (Sthira) in our body we need strength and strength takes effort. Therefore, Hatha Yoga is also known as the yoga of effort. How much effort? Just right effort, of course. To cultivate just right effort we embrace the sweetness of ease (Sukha) to relinquish unnecessary struggle or strain.

Asana is a mindful practice of maintaining balance within our own body as we attend to our individual abilities and limitations. Asana teaches us to let go of expectation, comparison and judgment while sinking into curiosity, truth and acceptance.

I like to invite the students in my classes to view Yoga as “an individual practice in a group setting,” thus allowing our choices to be ultimately guided from the inside out.

Moving your spine in all directions, juicing your joints through range of motion, strengthening and stretching your muscles while massaging your organs and glands are all beneficial to your health and well being. To do so with conscious awareness will translate to a life that feels both grounded and expanded. Stepping off the sticky mat and into the world, your Yoga Asana practice is capable of creating an Awesome Life.

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