Asana – The Physical Postures of Yoga
When you think of yoga, you automatically have the picture of someone doing a posture, people don’t necessarily always think of the meditation or breathing. I absolutely love those other aspects of yoga, but asana is what originally attracted me to the practice, and I will always love it. I started yoga for the exercise that these postures offered (particularly in a hot room), I found many benefits, I lost weight, I gained even more flexibility, I began to get stronger, and most importantly for me, I learned so much about my body. I was a chronic hyper extender in all of my joints and had no idea, I certainly had no idea that hyper extension causes damage to the joints. I was also (and still struggle with) being a chronic back bender. In any position you can imagine I was back bending and not even knowing it, whether it was standing to do the dishes, going for a walk, sitting at a desk, etc. etc. etc. Embarassingly enough, I always was a little nervous of going downstairs with high heels on (which I wore everyday for work at the office and before that I wore everyday to university and highschool). I came to realize that I felt unstable because I had very weak muscles everywhere in my body. Yoga asana brought me to this realization everyday when I would practice and feel like I would die in a simple lunge. Doing any strengthening postures would really bring me to the edge of my limits, I wouldn’t be breathing, I would be turning red from over exertion. It was my goal to do yoga everyday and I had no expiration day on that goal, almost five years later and I’m still practicing everyday. Sometimes when I feel like I have plateau’d in my practice, I look back on just how far I have come in five years. I don’t know the exact percentage to which I have increased my strength, but I know it is well over 200%. To me that seems amazing, in five years I have come so much further than I could have ever imagined and this is mostly due to my asana practice. As my practice has advanced, I have come to realize that the asanas offer so much more than just exercise. These postures actually aid so much in your meditation and pranayama practice. Asana eventually helps to calm your mind (and if you’re anything like I was, you’re thinking of a million things at once) and open your body to allow you to sit (or lie) in one position for awhile and first of all, stay comfortable, and secondly, not have your mind wander. This really improves your way of life overall, even if you haven’t cultivated a meditation or pranayama practice, a dedicated asana practice still offers you the calmness and openness you need to improve your way of life. Getting all these benefits from originally just trying to get in shape is one of the MANY reasons that I LOVE yoga!