If you have been following along, you may have already read my posts about the first two limbs of yoga, Yamas and Niyamas, the restraints and observances. Ideally, before beginning an asana practice, you will have a firm understanding of those important precepts, so that you are able to bring that understanding into your movement practice. If you would like a refresher, please visit:
Asana, the third limb of yoga is the practice of movement and postures. This is what most people think of when they think of yoga, but in fact, it is a very small part of the overall practice. The physical practice of yoga postures can have many physical benefits, including improved strength and flexibility. Certain movements can help with back pain, neck pain and posture. If you do have a specific issue that you want help with, it is important to obtain guidance from a teacher with experience and/or certification in these specific areas, as not all teachers are trained in the same way.
For me, the biggest benefit of the asana practice is in the way it can focus the mind. By giving us physical movements and postures to focus on, the asana practice demands our attention, and keeps our minds from wandering to other thoughts.
The postures and movements allow us to explore the patterns of the mind…when we are faced with a challenging pose, how do we react? When we come up against a movement that is not available to us, do we allow ourselves to take a break, or do we succumb to our egos and try to force the body to do what it is not ready for? This is where the the yamas and niyamas come into play. If you know and practice the yamas and niyamas, the practice of asana can be a joy, and can produce many benefits, physical, mental and emotional.
Stay tuned for the next post about the eight limbs – Pranayama or breath control.