Yoga and Asana
Asana collectively constitute the physical aspects of Yoga and are known to have immense physical and mental health benefits. (Yoga for anxiety and depression). In the Yoga Sutras, Pantanjali defines “Asana” as “to be seated in a position that is steady and comfortable” (Swami prabhavananda, Pantanjali Yoga Sutras)
In the Yoga Sutras, Asana is the third of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga. When control of body is mastered, Yogi will free free themselves from the duality of heat/cold, hungry/satiety, joy/grief, that leads to the unattachment that relieves suffering. The fourth limbs of Raja Yoga are Pranayama, or breath control. The practice is an integral part of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. According to Patanjali, pranayama is the control of the enhanced “life force” that is a result of practicing the various breathing techniques.
Based on Sri Dharma Mitta , there are a lists of 1300 Asana variations , derived from contemporary gurus, yogis and ancient and contemporary texts. (Taimi, I.K. , the science of Yoga)
The benefits of the Asana including:( Ross A. 2010)
-reduce stress and anxiety
-reduce symptoms of lower back pain
– be beneficial of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
-increase energy and decrease fagitue
-shorten labor and improve birth outcomes
-improve physical health and quality of life measurement in the elderly
-improve diabetes management
-reduce sleep disturbances
-improve blood circulation
The following part I will explain one of Asana in detail, Sirsasana, head stand. In headstand pose, the body is completely inverted, and held upright supported by the forearms, while the crown of the head resets lightly on the floor. The name comes from the Sanskrit words “Shirsha “ meaning head, and “Asana” meaning “posture.
The benefits of this position include to increase the flow of blood to the brain, improve memory and other functions of the cerebrum.
As a yoga practitioner who never practice headstand before, there is a very real fear when first start to practice. I am not sure that whether I can balance myself upside down and the fear of falling down haunted me.
To conquer the fear, based on instructions, I practice headstand in front of a wall and have teacher standing with me. After few times of trying , I have noticed that one of the major reason I cant practice headstand is due to the weakness of upper body. The reason is a weak upper body wont able to create and hold a stable base.
To tone up my upper body including biceps, triceps, shoulders and the muscles in my upper back, I start to exercise Dolphine push-up minimum 20 times a day.
While building up a strong upper back, working on a suitable sequence also important.
First, I started with Bound headstand prep: straight leg
The key point is I need to walk my legs towards my face as much as possible, and try to shift the weight of my hips over mu shoulders.
Second, Bound Headstand Prep: Tuck
bend the knee and tuck both knee into my chest
However, my alignment is still not very good . My torso isn’t in a straight line with my abs engaged. I believe that I will be balance without a strong base. Therefore, I will keep practice dolphin push-up and adjust my alignment according.
Last but not least, the perfect of Asana is not a one-day job. It required us have a strong self-discipline and determination.
“Yoga for anxiety and depression”. Harvard University. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
Verse 46, chapter II; for translation referred: “Patanjali Yoga Sutras” by Swami Prabhavananda , published by the Sri Ramakrishna Math
Taimni, I. K. (1996). The Science of Yoga. Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House.
Ross A, Thomas S (January 2010). “The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies”. J Altern Complement Med 16(1): 3–12.
Yoga and Asana