Home Practice: Asana
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Asana is the Sanskrit word for pose or the physical movements we do on the mat, but I like to refer to them as forms as well. Did you guys know that the actual poses in Yoga are a very tiny, tiny part of the entire practice? The practice is thousands of years old, and was first written down in ancient texts but before that was passed down orally from teacher to student. In a “modern” time when more writing began of Yoga, a text called the Yoga Sutra’s was written by Patanjali between 500BCE and 400 CE. In this text, a lot about Yoga that we base our practice off today was described, it was a main guide or summary of the practice. This is also the text where we get the 8 Limbs, Asana is one. There are only 3 verses in the Yoga Sutra that mention Asana, there are no diagrams of poses or explanation of physical forms. “Sthira sukham asanam” is the first verse. Translated as: Asana is steady and has ease (Patanjali, Satchidananda). Historically, the purpose of Asana was for preparing the body for sitting long periods, meditating. So, if you are stressing out about alignment, physical form, or grasping at doing an advanced form, the main focus is on that you are comfortable or in ease but also stable and solid. The whole purpose of moving our bodies is to prepare our minds for meditation, according to the ancient texts. But we will go more into this in the last blog. Of course there are so many other benefits of Asana, as Yoga means “to combine/unite or yok”, so you rarely just get one outcome from your effort.
Vinyasa is very much a modern practice, like all practices today. The point in Yoga philosophy is that it is timeless, it applies to everything and all the time. So it doesn’t matter particularly what style you choose, the internal work is being done all the same. Some styles will resonate with you more and maybe that’s something worth exploring.
Okay now on to the technical stuff!
Standing Asana(poses) in Vinyasa yoga are generally held for a shorter time, think a couple breaths, but you can easily adapt your practice and spend as much time as you want in them. In Vinyasa, we also flow in and out of a pose, meaning we link the movement we did in our Sun Salutations to our standing pose. Do you have to do this? Absolutely not. Can you adapt this or build up to it? Yes! For example, maybe you don’t want to go back down into Downward Facing Dog inbetween standing poses? Sweet, just transition onto the next standing pose. Either way the focus is still on breathing.
My advice is, again, to keep it simple. Pick maybe 2-3 poses. And keep it safe! A fantastic way to stay safe in your standing Asana is to pick poses in the same plane of motion. For example, Warrior 2, Triangle (pictured above), and Side Angle are all side plane of motion, where the hips are opening or rotating outward/externally. It’s considered safer to not quickly rotate the hips externally then internally. It also is easier to transition from pose to pose, perhaps taking less effort. For example, linking Warrior 2 to Triangle pose, your hips are already rotating externally in Warrior 2 so it makes anatomical sense for your body to move in this way, to me, on to Triangle. Another example of this in a forward plane motion, or internal hip rotation, would be linking Warrior 1 to Eagle Pose, a standing balance pose. Another way to keep things simple is repetitions. Just like our Sun Salutation’s that you may do once to a couple times or more, you can do the same here with the standing poses.