B.K.S Iyengar established the 200 essential asana poses in his book, Light on Yoga, published originally in 1966. His focus was primarily on the physical aspects of what asana postures could accomplish for our bodies, and Iyengar laid the framework for yoga as we know it today. Asana, as described in the Yoga sutras of Patanjali, is the third limb of the eight limbs of yoga and refers to the seat of meditation or the act of sitting to meditate. For Patanjali‘s purposes, the body was a physical barrier to get past to better be able to explore the subtle and internal. Today a yoga class blends the purely physical with the purely mental. Utilizing asana or yoga poses as a way to meditate.
Meditation is the act of paying attention. Noticing how you feeling when you’re getting into a pose, within a pose, and transitioning out of a pose, is a direct reflection on how change affects you outside of your yoga practice. How do you handle being challenged? How do you handle boredom? What sort of thoughts do you have about yourself during class? The physicality of yoga class is a popular aspect. Our bodies are a helpful gauge of physical progress, and being able to see ourselves develop further in the poses themselves is fun and aspiring. However, yoga itself is not a pose.
A yoga class is really an asana meditation practice. We use the poses to bring awareness to ourselves.
The next time you take a class I encourage you to try to notice more into the subtle. Without judgement, meaning without trying to change what your feeling or thinking in the moment, try to ask yourself questions like; Which poses do you enjoy? When do you feel successful? When does it get hard? Apply these type of questions to your regular life as well. Our feelings are supposed to be felt, they are there to teach us.
Yoga does not stop on our mats. Every moment is an opportunity to better understand ourselves. Asana gives us an opportunity to practice.