Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutra around 200 AD, outlines the eight limbs of yoga, a path to follow when developing a yoga practice. Yama and Niyama, outlined in the last several blog posts, are the first of the two limbs. The third is Asana, or yoga postures.
It’s important to note that there is no hierarchy here -- none of these limbs is more important than the others. Here in the West, when we think of yoga, we think of the physical postures. But they are just one small part of a yoga practice.
The benefits of asana practice are innumerable – regular practice of yoga improves your strength, stamina, flexibility, balance, and overall health. Yoga also will calm your mind, improve your concentration, and help you feel more grounded.
Most regular practitioners of yoga know that the benefits go deeper the more you practice. You have insights, great ideas, and inspirations while practicing yoga – you ask questions of yourself and solve problems. It seems that while busying the body with physical activity that at the same time calms and focuses the mind, there is room for new information in the brain.
Many of my students have remarked on how I keep a notepad with me while teaching, and often pause to jot something down. No, I am not grading you on your performance in class! Usually I am making note of an idea that popped into my head while stretching and breathing – something I don’t want to forget.
Regarding asana practice, renowned yoga teacher BKS Iyengar wrote,
"This down-to-earth, flesh-and-bones practice is simply one of the most direct and expedient ways to meet yourself. … This limb of yoga practice reattaches us to our body. In reattaching ourselves to our bodies we reattach ourselves to the responsibility of living a life guided by the undeniable wisdom of our body."
I hope to see you in class sometime soon!