Most people associate yoga with only the asanas (commonly known as poses), and expect a good workout when they go for a yoga class. Many who practice ‘yoga’ are familiar with names like Utkatasana or Virabhadrasana but forget that yoga means ‘union’ and refers to union with the Universal Consciousness. So how are the asanas supposed to help us achieve this?
By persevering through any discomfort in a pose, we can cultivate Dharana (concentration), by withdrawing our attention from the physical senses and concentrating on the idea of maintaining the asana, the breath or our Dristhi (point of focus). Breath regulation, or Pranayama, can also be practiced through our asanas by lengthening each inhale and exhale. When we forget about the sweat tickling the corner of the eye or the ache in our arms for holding our arms up for an eternal 5 breaths, the asana becomes a steady and comfortable pose.
In practicing the Yama Asteya (non-covetedness), we no longer find ourselves competing to hold the pose for longer than our neighbours in class. Practicing Santosha (contentment) means being genuinely satisfied with how you performed the asanas in class on a bad day or with the way the teacher conducted the class. Making our asana practice a moving meditation is Dhayana; and during Dhayana, one enters the state of Samadhi where one transcends the boundaries of the mind.
In theory, this is what we are trying to achieve each time we go for a yoga class, but there’s only so much we can achieve within 60 minutes, several times a week. So the next time you practice your asanas in a room with 10 other sweaty people, try and keep these points in mind and carry your practice with you through the day, off the mat and into life.
Rachel L. – YTT Jan 2017