What Is Asana?

तस्मिन् सति श्वासप्रश्वास्योर्गतिविच्छेदः प्राणायामः ॥४९॥
tasmin sati śvāsa-praśvāsyor-gati-vicchedaḥ prāṇāyāmaḥ ||49||

Once that perfected posture has been achieved, the slowing or braking of the force behind, and of unregulated movement of inhalation and exhalation is called breath control and expansion of prana (pranayama), which leads to the absence of the awareness of both, and is the fourth of the eight rungs.

  • tasmin = upon that (perfection of meditation posture) 
  • sati = being accomplished
  • shvasa = inhalation
  • prashvsayoh = exhalation
  • gati = of the uncontrolled movements
  • vichchhedah = slowing, softening or braking of the force behind
  • pranayamah = expansion of prana, regulation of breath

Pranayama is the measuring, control, and directing of the breath. Pranayama controls the energy (prana) within the organism, in order to restore and maintain health and to promote evolution. When the in-flowing breath is neutralized or joined with the out-flowing breath, then perfect relaxation and balance of body activities are realized. In yoga, we are concerned with balancing the flows of vital forces, then directing them inward to the chakra system and upward to the crown chakra.

Pranayama, or breathing technique, is very important in yoga. It goes hand in hand with the asana or pose. In the Yoga Sutra, the practices of pranayama and asana are considered to be the highest form of purification and self discipline for the mind and the body, respectively. The practices produce the actual physical sensation of heat, called tapas, or the inner fire of purification. It is taught that this heat is part of the process of purifying the nadis, or subtle nerve channels of the body. This allows a more healthful state to be experienced and allows the mind to become more calm. As the yogi follows the proper rhythmic patterns of slow deep breathing “the patterns strengthen the respiratory system, soothe the nervous system and reduce craving. As desires and cravings diminish, the mind is set free and becomes a fit vehicle for concentration.

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Cultural Poses

Practiced for those physical culturists that wish to maintain the nervous and endocrine systems in excellent health, because through these two systems the health of the whole body organism can be secured. The aim of the cultural poses is to produce physiological balance in the different systems working in the human body, so that it can possess the best organic vigor. The other purpose is to train the spinal cord and the brain for the interaction of Kundalini.

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Meditative Poses

For those spiritual culturists that wish to reduce the metabolic activity  of their body to a minimum and thus get their mind freed from all physical disturbances so that it can be left to itself and be  brought to a point of concentration required to reach Samadhi. The aim of the meditative āsanas is to offer a comfortable posture for Prānayāma, Dhāranā, Dhyāna and Samādhi. and in coordination with other Yogic exercises to help the student of Yoga in the awakening of Kundalini.

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Relaxtative Poses

There are mainly 2 relaxative āsanas, shavāsana and Makarāsana on the abdomen. They are used in between practice of āsanas to relax all the body and to be aware of the happenings in the body after a particular posture. They can also be used for meditation (ie shavāsana). The only disadvantage is that one can fall asleep easily in this posture.

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