The Process of Asana

The yogic tradition is rich in methods and techniques.  It is important to remember that the techniques are a means to a much greater end, the complete physical, mental and spiritual integration of the human being.  It is equally important to recognize the moment to moment process of transformation that arises within the application of these various methods.  As we pay close attention to our breath or the sensations within a posture, we gain insight into the nature of our own experience.  From this perspective the path is the destination.

What we call life is already existent inside of us.  The various means, including asana, are a way to explore that inner reality that we live with on a day to day basis.  While the postures and breathing practices may initially appear quite foreign, they draw upon what is most available, namely our breath our body and our mind.  All of the postures and other related practices give us a way to explore the phenomenon of the body and re-pattern it in ways that are much more conducive to deeper states of realization.

This process of re-patterning is what we call transformation.  What the practices give us the opportunity to consciously transform our breath-body-mind, in essence our lives, on multiple levels; physically, mentally, spiritually.  That is one of the reasons people experience such deep currents of change once they start practicing.  Yoga consists of moment to moment dedicated attention to the practices and the ultimate realization of our deepest nature…  Everything in-between is called life!

Yoga Helps You Hit Bottom!

I remember taking a for-credit yoga class at my university in the early 90’s. We dissected the postures and every so often, the teacher would throw out a yogic pearl of wisdom. Somewhere about mid-quarter, I remember her saying “asana is a very small part of yoga practice –just the tip of the iceberg.”

It seemed strangely paradoxical: as we explored the postures, she diminished them at the same time? If the result of asana practice felt so wonderful and transformative, how could that be only a small fraction of what yoga was?

Eventually I took her statement to mean that asana was one among many different modalities that generated the effects of yoga practice. However, I was still using asana as the standard by which all ‘yogas’ were to be measured. Breathwork, meditation, and all other yogic modalities seemed secondary.

As the years went by and I continued to study, her statement stuck with me and began to take on a different meaning. Not only were there many methods for approaching yoga, but the the potential for experiencing yoga also deepened. All of the methods were in support of a much greater understanding about oneself and one’s relationship to all of life -the spirit of yoga is/was far greater than one’s ability to increase their bodily range of motion.

At its utmost expression, yoga is union of individualized consciousness with Universal Consciousness. That consciousness is the bottom of the iceberg that resides far below the surface of physical “reality”- even beyond mental, self-referential, preconceptions about our identity.

The postures are a means to much greater end. How exactly do the postures play into the journey of yoga will be the subject of our next blog. Namaste.