Today we will understand the very mechanics of Yoga Asanas. But before we come to that, let’s us first understand one of the most relevant & widely practiced forms of yoga which is the ‘Ashtanga Yoga’. Asanas are one of the limbs of the Ashtanga yoga itself. ‘Asht’ is a Sanskrit word which means 8. In Ashtanga yoga, we have 8 limbs: Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayam, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana & Samadhi. Now, these 8 limbs are the guidelines for a human being to make him realize the true nature of his being which is boundless, dimensionless & eternal. This is the live roadmap using which a person gets an access to the limitless energies & possibilities which surrounds him. Just like a caterpillar transforms itself into a beautiful butterfly in a stage where he thinks he is going to die, similarly, a human being has the ability to transform himself into a completely new life which has the access to the source of creation.
So before a person takes up the yogic path, he must know what he should do and what he should not do. The Yamas & Niyamas tells us exactly the same. Both these aspects of Ashtanga yoga tell us to do’s & don’ts. For e.g, the platonic values like truth, goodness, beauty, harmony, compassion, empathy, equanimity etc come under yamas and niyamas. Also, they talk about the internal and external cleansing of our body and mind. Once we have set our perspectives right, only then we can proceed to the next step. Lets us understand why yamas and niyams are important for a person who wants to live a blissful life.
Whenever we are dealing with any kind of gadget, machine or equipment, it is very important that we read the user manual. And only the expert person will be allowed to operate upon that. The logic is very simple if we try to operate something which we don’t have any idea about, We will end up harming ourselves & breaking up the equipment as well. Similarly, yoga is not a philosophy, it’s a technology to transform human beings. Now if we are trying to do yoga, without making the necessary arrangements around us, It will not work. Until we do the right thing it will simply not work. Most of the people think that there is no difference between yoga and exercise and they use these words interchangeably. It’s a huge misconception. We will come to the difference between yoga and exercise in a different article. Here we will focus on the Yoga Asanas.
Definition of an Asana: The great yogi & sage ‘Maharishi Patanjali’ defined asana in Sanskrit as ‘Sthiram Sukham Asanam’ which literally means that any posture which is comfortable for a person to hold is asana. Asana is also called as ‘Meditative Pose’. (We will deal with meditative pose later).
There are many people who are obsessed with yoga asanas, and they say that why have the Great Sages & Yogis of India stole these asanas from the animals. I would like to clarify that the asanas have nothing to deal with the animals. It is just that we have to give a name to a specific pose which is easily identifiable. That’s why we name asanas as Lotus pose, cat pose, snake pose, lion pose etc…. Every asana has a very important significance and scientific basis to it. Now since we have understood the asana, lets us understand its scientific basis.
Scientific Basis of Asanas: Every physical activity & expression has a chemical basis to it. With the scientific knowledge today we know that our body is the most sophisticated ‘Chemical Factory’ in this world. No doubt we have made huge progress in the pharmaceutical sector, but they still have no match for the kind of chemistry our body manufactures. Every emotion we have, be it a joy, sadness, anxiety, ecstasy, blissfulness, love, compassion etc. All these emotions are produced with different types of chemical reactions happening within our body. Happiness is a different kind of chemistry, sadness is a different kind of chemistry. Our brain also is nothing but a bundle of neurons & electro-chemical soup. What kind of chemistry we have depends upon the kind of state we are in. Even when a person plays with his dog, there is a 58 percent rise in the ‘Oxytocin’ hormone level which is responsible for the bonding & love between a person and his dog. Hence this is also one kind of chemistry which we are generating at that point in time.
Let’s take another example when you have a headache and you are not feeling well, what do you do? You take a pill and-and after some time you feel good. So what basically happened is that the medicine which you took changed the chemistry within you and you started feeling great.
So if you knew a technology, wherein you can manufacture a certain kind of chemistry within you, then that is the best ever technology you can have. You will never have a need to take any medicine to be healthy because you would know exactly what you need to do to keep you healthy and well. Yoga Asana is that technology using which you can generate the right kind of chemistry within your body. On a certain day when you feel sad, then your body aligns itself in a certain posture unconsciously; whereas on a day when you are very joyful, your body aligns itself in a different way. By just looking at the physical expressions of a person we can easily tell what state of mind & emotion that person is in.
Now if this is true, then the opposite of this is also true, i.e if we align our body in a certain kind of posture, we can change our chemistry, which will further change the state of our consciousness. Hence if we are consciously able to hold a posture which will manufacture the right kind of chemicals, then our life will always be the way it should be. That is the reason the yoga asanas have been given importance in Yogic Sciences. Once you are able to hold a posture which is comfortable for you, you will see that you will start becoming more and calmer, and receptive to the life situations within and around you. Once you are in that state of being, we say the person has become spiritual.
We will understand the importance of yoga asana with one more practical example, In those days when we were kids, in every home we used to have ‘Aluminium Antennas’. The only channel we used to get only one National Channel. The antenna was simply an array of aluminum hollow tubes. In some cases even we used to use ‘bicycle rim’ as an antenna if you remember. Now let’s say that you were watching your favorite program and suddenly the signal went off. In that situation, we used to go to the terrace and then try to adjust our antenna. If you move your antenna in anti-clockwise or clockwise direction randomly, it will not work. But when you simply move it in the right direction with a very very little movement, suddenly we used to get the signal poured in. Similarly, if you know exactly what kind of asana you need to hold & also how you need to hold it, you have the ability to download the whole universe within you. You will become an activity of the universe manifesting itself.
Happy Reading 🙂