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the third limb, Asana: embodied practice

According to The Yoga Sutras, the highest state of living is Samadhi. In order to achieve this enlightened state and live in oneness with all of creation, it is said a spiritual seeker must follow the eight-limbed path of Asthanga Yoga. The first two limbs of this path are the Yamas and Niyamas, which have been explored in previous chattra posts, and together create the moral and ethical foundation for the next limb, Asana. 

Asana:  Embodied Practice

Sutra II.46 reads:  STIRA SUKHAM ASANAM, which translates to steady, comfortable posture. Here we learn that the teaching of asana can be mastered in a single pose. We also learn that it is not the shape that matters but rather the inward journey, the meditative experience possible while maintaining steady, comfortable asana. 

Pure Body

A healthy body is necessary to maintain the qualities of stira (steady) and sukha (comfortable) for an extended period of time in single pose. The ancients understood toxins to be an obstacle to stira and sukha as they were the main culprit of bodily discomforts such as tension, pain, stiffness, bile and gas. As stated in Sri Swami Satchidananda in his translation of Yoga Sutras, “Unless a body is perfectly healthy and free from all toxins and tensions, a comfortable pose is not easily obtained.” 

Aim to be Strong & Flexible

Along with purity, strength and flexibility are recognized as essential elements of a healthy body, for such a body is tension-free and able to be both resilient and supple like enduring, pliable steal. 

The roots of Hatha Yoga 

In an effort to create healthy bodies, the ancient yogis developed practices as a remedy for toxicity. Through a series of preliminary poses that moved the body in all directions, mudras, bandhas and other detox practices, Hatha Yoga was born. 

Reflect on your Asana practice 

  1. Through the study of The Yoga Sutras, the essence of asana is revealed as a posture that is both steady and comfortable. Do these qualities usually apply to your asana practice? If not, how might you shift your approach to your practice to more constantly achieve this state?
  2. All eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are equally important and interconnected. How might embracing the moral and ethical guidance of the Yamas and Niyamas set you up for success in practicing asana? 

 

about chattra blogger Jillian Bobowicz

Jillian is a yogini based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She leads weekly public yoga classes for adults and specializes in yoga for kids and families. Her studies have led her to complete trainings at YogaWorks, Karma Kids and Yoga Playgrounds. Jillian feels blessed to practice and teach yoga and is particularly passionate about empowering her students with tools to navigate the modern world with ease.

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