Article from Bindu no 19
and something fundamental with the use of yoga postures, asana
Yoga is about the art of living. To be able to rest in yourself and have balance in life, balance between activity and rest, between tension and relaxation, between the external and the internal.
Yoga is also about being able to return to that balance, if it should momentarily disappear or, for a while, be forgotten completely. And for this we use, among other things, the postures of yoga, which are called asana.
We will in this and the following issues of Bindu go into further depth with specific postures and programmes. We start by outlining an essential feature.
Asana are often viewed as a form of gymnastics. But in contrast to gymnastics, where the movements are paramount and not always carried out quite consciously, the yoga postures are performed under great tranquillity and with full awareness; and are not called exercises, but postures. They are based upon a timeless knowledge of how the body functions, in itself, and in relationship with the mind and the psychic energy.
Asana means a correctly rendered, stable and comfortable pose, developed, tried and tested and passed on from teacher to pupil for generations. The different asanas influence the body in various ways; muscles, organs, blood circulation, nervous system, glands and the breath. (e.g. see article on headstand).
Here we shall focus on one method, which is that when a muscle is held stretched its tensions decline, the longer it is retained, the more it relaxes. This is demonstrated by measuring muscle tension during a posture. Therefore one stands or sits completely still for some time in each yoga posture, and with a combination of various poses one literally touches all the muscles in the body.
One does not overstrain, but goes as far into the posture as the body allows and stays there for a while. Gradually the tension falls so much that it is possible to reach further into the pose. In this manner all yoga postures, with some practise, become comfortable.
The asanas give an immediate experience of well-being and, in the long term, good health; and makes the mind concentrated. But the postures have a further purpose: They are preparatory to the meditative state and deepen it.