Just to recap the 8 limbs of Yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are (see blog post here):
1. Yamas - the 5 restraints to find balance with our outside world
2. Niyamas - the 5 observation to find balance in our inside world
3. Asana - Physical Poses
4. Pranayama - Breath
5. Pratyahara - Withdrawal of senses
6. Dharana - Concentration
7. Dhyana - State of Meditation
8. Samadhi - State of Oneness, Bliss
In 2018 we covered the firsts two limbs of Yoga, (to find a summary of previous blog posts on the subject click here)
This year we will focus on the remaining limbs, continuing with Asana - Physical Poses as the third limb. It is interesting to note, that out of the 196 Sutras (see blog post on Yoga Sutras) only 3 mention instruction on how to practice Asana, the physical postures, yet that seems to be the focus in most Yoga classes in the West.
The Sutra most notably mentioning guidance for poses is the 2.46: 'Sthira Sukham Asanam' meaning postures for meditation should be steady and comfortable.
As we can see, the Asana mentioned here is the meditation pose. What we know as Asana, physical poses, is actually a pathway to the final pose - seated mediation poses like Lotus pose, Easy pose, Hero's pose, crossed legged pose (I see a whole new blog post coming on here :-)).
What I wold like you to take home from this, is what I keep telling you in class, that a pose should feel like you are creating change, putting in effort but at the same time it is also effortless and the breath can flow freely in it. A Yoga pose without breath awareness and intention is just physical exercise as we know.
Translations of the 3 Yoga Sutras for Asana from Swamij.com:
2.46 The posture (asana) for Yoga meditation should be steady, stable, and motionless, as well as comfortable, and this is the third of the eight rungs of Yoga.
(sthira sukham asanam)
2.47 The means of perfecting the posture is that of relaxing or loosening of effort, and allowing attention to merge with endlessness, or the infinite.
(prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam)
2.48 From the attainment of that perfected posture, there arises an unassailable, unimpeded freedom from suffering due to the pairs of opposites (such as heat and cold, good and bad, or pain and pleasure).
(tatah dvandva anabhighata)