Asan – A Seat or A Posture?

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The word Asan has been derived from Sanskrit root, literally had two distinct meaning.

Firstly, it denotes the “Seat” on which the practitioner (sadhaka) sits for his/her practice.

Secondly, it implies different bodily postures used during Yoga Sadhana (practice).

Asan is earth, the stability, grounding, and alignment. By grounding the body, our mind is also grounded and begins to quiet. Whatever touches the ground is solid and draws energy upwards (through rebounding and Bandha.

The number of asana equals to the number of species.

Almighty lord Shiva has described eighty-four asanas (out of which the first four as necessary or vital to attain yogic perfection) taking examples from each of the 8,400,000 kinds of creatures.

Asana as Seat:

There are many references in yogic literature (e.g. Kriya-kanda of Gautamadharmasutraand brahmasamhita) that describes significance of using different kinds of seat and their effects. Seats to be avoided –  “Bamboo seats brings poverty. On the rock-seat emerges diseases. On the floor there is abundance of sorrow. Grass seat brings loss of fame. Seat on the leaf creates mental disturbance. Seats that are recommended – Seat on tiger’s skin brings emancipation (Please don’t go and ask tiger his skin! laugh…). Cloth-seats bring wealth. Cane-seat removes diseases. Seat prepared from silk garment gives health. Seat of woollen blanket brings release from sorrow.

Asana as Posture:

The characteristic features of asana is concisely expressed by Patanjali as  which means asana should be stable and comfortable, indicates the psychophysical nature of the asana, though practiced bodily yet brings tranquillising effects on the mind.

There are three components of asana, the observer, and the method of observation and the object of our observation. In asana (posture or pose) the object of observation; may be the sensations of body, breath or mind, our chosen medium of observation; the posture, breath, sensation or Vinyasa, the observer; initially the ego-mind, hopefully evolving into an intuitive understanding and ultimately the true Self.

Example; As we (observer) begin our asana practice the sensations of the stretch (observation) may feel unpleasant (or pleasant), we usually respond by backing off (or deepening). This is no longer observation but engagement; our response should be one of watching the sensation, being aware of the sensation with no judgment. Allowing it to be and discovering where and how it is manifesting. As we observe with detachment (method of observation) we start to notice where the sensation is. At first this may be the back, then lower back, then with more awareness the actual point of origin. From here we will notice that if we breathe (object of observation) in a particular manner the sensation may alter.

You are awareness. Awareness is another name for you. Since you are awareness there is no need to attain or cultivate it. All you have to do is give up being aware of other things that are not of the self. If one gives up being aware of them then pure awareness alone remains and that is the self.

Different forms of breathing will also change the nature of the sensation such as the sensation of movement or energy in the area, lengthening, deepening, softening or acceptance and our emotional attitude to particular asana ; this allows the awareness to grow into a deeper intuitive understanding. These sensations are layers which move in cycles. Iyengar teachers call this patterning or re-patterning of the psycho-physiological nature.

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