In the yoga world nowadays, the word asana generally means body postures: holding a specific pose while bending the body. Asanas may be popular practice for a number of reasons, including their great physical and mental benefits, and of course for aesthetics. On one level, it is, but asanas have a much deeper meaning and purpose.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states:
“sthira-sukham asanam” -Chapter II, v. 46
Paramahamsa Nithyananda translates:
“Asanas are steady and comfortable body postures to tune oneself with the Cosmos.”
If you look deeply, any body posture is associated with a state of being, with a particular state of consciousness. For example, can you sleep standing up? And how about lying down in a relaxed way and try to shout angrily at someone. You can’t! The body language changes according to your moods and attitudes. Subtle changes in your body posture will cause a major change in the way you feel.
A small exercise:
Sit straight with eyes closed and the hands in front of you, palms facing up. Just notice how your body feels. Notice the breath.
Slowly turn the palms down. Bring awareness to how you feel now.
Can you feel a subtle difference? This subtle difference is due to the change of body posture.
So, asanas are specific body postures designed in a way so as to reflect the highest possible coherence with the Cosmos. The perfect asana for you depends on you. You will see, in some asanas you will suddenly feel natural, steady (sthira) and comfortable (sukham).
Actually, in a deeper way, sthira does not only mean steady, it means, “which cannot be lost, which has become part of your bio-memory”. It should be natural to be in that posture. If after a few weeks without practice you suddenly realize you cannot perform the posture anymore, then the true quality of sthirahas not been achieved.
Sukham, which is commonly translated as comfortable, is not about cushion luxury! You should be able to be in a posture and feel its effect in your body throughout the day. Every joint should be oozing with nectar, like a sweet feeling of lightness. You can achieve sukham by constant practice, and increasing your ability to stay in that asana.
Respect Your Body
But understand, the practice of asanas does not mean abusing or disrespecting your body. Our bodies are victims of our self-destructive lifestyle. We often overeat and over-stimulate our bodies. Asanas are conscious practices to make you fall in tune with the deepest you, so it can never be against your body.Asanas are about aligning yourself with the highest possible coherence, with the highest qualities of the cosmos. Aligning yourself is levitation, maligning yourself is gravitation!
There are two ways of finding which asanas are best for you:
1) By your own practice, until you find your own sequence, or
2) By the Master’s instruction
In these particular asanas you will align your body perfectly with the super-consciousness, just like a mirror aligned directly with the source of light. This will allow you to tune yourself to the ultimate state of consciousness, and be established in Yoga.
Adapted from Paramahamsa Nithyananda’s Teachings