In yoga, an asana is a posture in which a practitioner sits.The term asanas enjoy as much popularity as Yoga itself. In fact, for the majority of the population, the first image of Yoga is that of an asana and performing Yoga denotes balancing in a body posture. Here, Dr. Anupama Krishnan expounds on how the different asanas of Yoga can help to enhance the health of both the mind and body and points to be considered prior to indulging in Yoga asanas.
In the Yoga Sutras (sacred texts), Patanjali defines “asana” as “to be seated in a position that is firm, but relaxed”. Asanas are also performed as physical exercise where they are sometimes referred to as “yoga postures” or “yoga positions”. Asana adorns the first gate of Hatayoga,a school of Yoga that focuses on the importance of body control and strength. It is devoted to the cause of taming the evident perceivable body as control of one’s body is the first achievable goal. It is a deliberate fore-runner to the control of the more vulnerable sense organs and flickering mind. Only an agile body can lodge an active and sound mind. This concept is well perceived by asana which are by themselves a saga that is an explicit portrait of the mystic beauty and the enviable charm of yoga. Inorder to meditate upon oneself, one needs to be in a stable state of inner peace which means curtailing restlessness, minimizing energy input and attaining enviable excellence of action.Any position which renders the body in a stable yet flexible state enabling sustained action coupled with uninterrupted ease and pleasure of performance comes under the entity of yoga asana. Such a state of comfort and excellence can be attained only by dedicated practice. Asana encompass not only physical fitness but also explores the world of ultimate mental and physical relaxation.
Neverthless, yoga recognises that each body is unique, graceful in performance and perfection and is the target not the pace of performance. Asana is a conscious meditation and prayer, thanking the body for its compliance, and the substratum on which we attribute our very existence.Slowly withdrawing from the awareness of the surroundings, getting immersed in the body movement,knowing the depth and length of breath and subtility of the slightest body movements, this awareness gradually shifts from outward to inward,meditating upon the stretch experienced, internalizing the abundant feeling and sensation and finally, letting go.This in a nutshell,is the asana and the yoga capsuled in the meditating body.
Yoga asana paves its way in disease prevention, health promotion and accelerating the healing process. Asana are designed by virtue of the amazing observation of nature and a generous reminder that we are part of the macrocosm and the universe.
Sukshma vyayama (loosening exercise) mark the intiation of asana. hese are a series of loosening exercise that ensures microcirculation of prana,the vital energy.They serve to warm up the body prior to asana practice.Unlike exercises, asana practice witness descending order of speed ie-warming up,dynamic state and always ending in a calm relaxed state.Stimulation and Relaxation are the secret keys that safeguard the body against the wear and tear born out of the exhaustive practice. The mandatory intermittent relaxation shuts down the scope of free radical process which are accused of initiating harmful impact on the body.
The whole purpose is to increase the threshold by increasing stamina by slow deliberate conscious body movement, increase energy output with less energy input and finally warming up.Yoga asana can be modulated or reduced in number and frequency to meet the requirements of the concerned individual. Asanas are in themselves holistic in nature and are a combination of asanas including standing, sitting,prone,supine,dynamic ,balance and other meditative postures. The catch line of yoga asana is- Practice and practice….with awareness and grace..gently, yet firmly, installing perfection.
The result of yoga asana is multifactorial. It results in a glowing and healthy skin, feeling of lightness and enthusiasm and optimum functioning of the body system. Yoga asanas reduces the irritability of the mind considerably and incapacitates the body to react mildly towards extreme challenges.The body intelligence and power is heightened by awareness of the body and mind and are rendered stable,compact yet sensitive, sensible and flexible.
Few points to be considered prior to indulging in yoga asanas:
Supervision: Asanas need to be practiced under trained supervision. There is a growing unhealthy trend to gallop through various health magazines and electronic media to learn and practice the different yoga techniques. These abundant literature on yoga can be an interesting read but one should be cautious while practicing them.
Mensrtrual period: It is good to avoid practicing yoga during the menstrual periodal though there are few yogic modalities that can be practiced. Pregnancy is not a contraindication yet first trimester can be spared.Practice of hazardless specific yoga conferring desirable impact is recommended during the pregnancy period.
Can a patient do yoga asana: The disease play their game on the deck of the body and mind. Asana is meant to bring about a harmonious and dynamic state of both body and mind. Hence modified pliable asana can bring about positive fruitful changes in the body and mind, help in the healing process and strengthen the inherent vital energy to overcome the hurdle of disease, disorders and distress.However, it is highly recommended to abstain from the practice of asana following a surgery particularly during the first three months.Patients suffering from cardiac complaints, uncontrolled hypertension, severe back pain arising out of acute disc prolapsed (IVDP) those under medication should consul twith their physicians and the stakeholders need to be updated with the patient’s condition.
Empty stomach facilitates best results,however a light refreshment one hour prior to practices is permissible. Avoid asanas immediately after food. The diamond pose,Vajrasana is the only asana that can be done after meal as it kindles the digestive fire and aids in the digestive mechanism
Settings to do Asana: The availability of clean spacious open space or a well ventilated room is an agreeable choice. Clean premises, fresh fragrant settings add to the pie of the cake. Ambience and aesthetic sense of the place has a cardinal role in asana performance especially in the initial stages of practice when one may have to face a pressing need for motivation.
Pre requirements:Taking a shower prior to yoga is advisable,drape yourself in light,loose fitting apparel. Fancy clothing,too tight, heavily embroidered,flashy,over loose dress are not appealing either.Keeping a pair of clothes aside for practice of yoga asana would be a very thoughtful indeed.
Time slot: Early morning,dawn and dusk are favourable part of the day to do asana. The reason behind this is that the body and mind are more receptive during this phase. Also, the serene surroundings in twilight and dawn acts as favourable motivating adjuvant to the practice of asana. When one is getting started for work it is the time zones calling for high energy and enthusiasm and when one curtains down a days work, it is the phase of sinking energy level. Both are conducive for asana practice.
Yoga asana is the epitome of selfcare. Therefore,choose asanas that are comfortable. Embark from simple to complex. The choice of asana can be need-based but no comparison or competition is required, since it is token of love and respect that we show to our own body and mind.It is a tribute to both the body and mind as it is understood that the meaning of yoga is a harmonious blissful union. It can be perceived that the mind and body are being anchored with love,care and abundant grace while doing Yogasana
Dr Anupama Krishnan
Dept of Swasthavritta
VPSV Ayurveda College Kottakkal